Religious Leaders And Scholars To Visit Rome For November Talks

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict plans to meet later this year with Muslim religious leaders and scholars as part of a push for greater dialogue.

The Vatican says two dozen leaders and scholars from each side will participate in a Nov. 4-6 forum in Rome.

Muslim scholars wrapped up two days of preparatory talks with the Holy See on Wednesday.

The group included representatives of 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals who wrote to Benedict and other Christian leaders last year to encourage Christians and Muslims to develop their common belief in one God.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, who heads the Vatican’s council for inter-religious dialogue, says the planned papal audience could inspire the start of historic dialogue between the faiths.

The Vatican is eager to improve relations with the Muslim word. A speech by Benedict in 2006 about Islam and violence angered many Muslims.

Benedict cited a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

The Pope later said he was “deeply sorry” about the reactions his remarks sparked and stressed that they did not reflect his own opinions.

Muslim participants at this week’s meetings included the editor of a magazine based in Jordan and officials of foundations or scholarly organizations in other countries, including Britain and Turkey.

The Vatican did not say which representatives would meet with the Pope in November.