PARIS — Though welcoming an initiative by a galaxy of Muslim scholars for dialogue, the top Vatican official for inter-faith dialogue has admitted that real theological debate with Muslims was difficult because of they saw the Qur’an as the literal word of God and would not discuss it in depth.
“Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Qur’an in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God,” Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told the French Catholic daily La Croix in an interview highlighted Saturday, October 20, by Reuters.
“With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”
Tauran, however, praised the Muslim initiative as “an eloquent example of a dialogue of spiritualities” that showed good will by quoting not the Qur’an only but also the Bible.
Earlier this month, 138 Muslim scholars addressed an open letter to the world’s Christian clergy, including Pope Benedict XVI.
Themed “A Common Word Between Us and You”, the 29-page letter offers interpretation from the Noble Qur’an and the Bible on similarities between the two religions.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an contains the pure word of Allah. Not one word of it is not divine. Not a single word has been deleted from its text.
The Book has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Allah has promised to preserve the Qur’an intact until the Last Hour. He has done it all through the centuries.
Tauran also said the world’s largest Christian church wanted a serious dialogue with Muslims that did not avoid some fundamental issues dividing the religions.
He said Christians would have to discuss curbs on building churches in the Islamic world in such a dialogue.
The fact that Muslims can build mosques in Europe while many Islamic states limit or ban church building cannot be ignored, he said.
“In a dialogue among believers, it is fundamental to say what is good for one is good for the other,” he said.
The Muslim initiative was addressed to all leading Christian churches.
Anglican, Lutheran and evangelical leaders and the World Council of Churches have all welcomed it, according to Reuters.
But the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church, which makes up more than half of the world’s two billion Christians, is key to any coordinated Christian response to the Muslim appeal.
Tauran hinted Benedict might use a major inter-faith meeting in Naples on Sunday, October 21, to respond to the Muslim appeal.
“The pope will be there at the start and will certainly say something,” he said.
Pope Benedict is a key figure because his Regensburg speech last year implying Islam was violent and irrational sparked bloody protests in the Muslim world and prompted the Muslim scholars to unite to seek better inter-faith understanding.