Pope Stresses Muslim-Christian Dialogue

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has replied to a letter from Muslim scholars, stressing the need for dialogue between Islam and Christianity and saying he would be willing to meet Muslim representatives, the Vatican said Thursday.

The pope expressed “deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text (of the letter) and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world.”

The October letter by 138 Muslim scholars urges Christian and Muslims to develop their common ground of belief in one God. Among those signing were Muslim leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Europe and the United States.

“Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God,” the pope said in his reply, which was sent via the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

“Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation,” Benedict said.

The message said the pope was confident that cooperation would then become possible in such areas as culture and the promotion of justice and peace.

The Vatican has been trying to improve relations with Muslims after remarks by Benedict in 2006 about Islam and violence angered Muslims.

The pope said he was willing to receive Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed of Jordan, the monarch’s special adviser on religious matters, to whom the note is addressed, as well as a restricted group of the letter’s signatories.

Benedict also suggested that a working meeting be organized between the Vatican’s office in charge of interfaith dialogue and a Muslim delegation be organized.