Pope Thanks Muslims For ‘Ramadan Letter,’ Invites Further Dialogue

Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI has thanked Muslim religious leaders for an October letter to Christian leaders in which they stressed better relations between the two faiths, the Vatican announced Thursday. In a letter dated November 19 and signed by the Vatican’s second highest official, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the pontiff also invited the 138 Muslim leaders to engage in further dialogue with the church.

The Vatican letter was addressed to Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal who heads the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, an Amman-based non-governmental organization, that issued the appeal by the 138 Muslim leaders on October 13, a date coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“The pope has asked me to convey his gratitude to your royal highness and to all who signed the letter,” Cardinal Bertone wrote in the Vatican’s response, the contents of which were made public by the Vatican Thursday.

“He (the pontiff) also wishes to express his deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world,” Bertone wrote.

Benedict wished to invite Prince Ghazi and “a restricted group of the signatories of the open letter” to the Vatican for talks with the pontiff, Bertone wrote.

The Vatican also proposed a “working meeting” between the prince’s delegation and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Vatican’s main body dealing with Islam, the letter said.

The letter by the 138 Muslim leaders included amongst it signatories prominent religious leaders, politicians and academics, including the grand muftis of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Croatia, Kosovo and Syria, the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the former grand mufti of Egypt and the founder of the Ulema Organization in Iraq.

The letter was also addressed to the Anglican leader, the archbishop of Canterbury, the heads of the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches, the Orthodox Church’s patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I and other Orthodox patriarchs.

The letter stressed that Muslims and Christians made up more than half the world’s population, making their relations “the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world.”

“To those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony,” it said.

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