Vatican: Annual Muslim-Catholic Dialogue Conference Underway

Vatican City, 15 Dec. (AKI) – The 11th annual inter-faith dialogue conference organised between the Vatican and the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society got under way in Rome on Monday. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Responsibility of leaders in times of crisis’. Catholic and Muslim scholars are attending the gathering, which is is taking place until Wednesday

A senior Vatican cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran (photo), head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is leading a delegation of twelve Catholic experts attending the talks.

The World Islamic Call Society’s Secretary General, Mohamed Ahmed Sherif, is heading the 12-man strong Muslim delegation to the talks.

The conference is organised in five sessions, centred on three themes: religious responsibility; cultural and social responsibility; and the search for inter-faith dialogue in times of crisis. It will conclude on Wednesday when participants are received by Pope Benedict XVI.

The World Islamic Call Society is a non-profit entity made up of over 250 Muslim organisations from around the world. Founded in 1972, its stated mission is to bridge gaps among religions and bringing them closer by promoting interfaith dialogue as well as to promote moderate Islam.

Tauran last month led landmark talks at the Vatican between top Muslim scholars and Catholic officials aimed at easing tensions between the world’s two largest faiths.

Pope Benedict in 2006 angered Muslims with a speech implying Islam was violent and irrational. In response, 138 Muslim scholars invited Christian churches to open new dialogue to promote respect and better understanding of each other’s beliefs.

A year earlier, deadly protests broke out in Muslim countries after a Danish daily printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which were republished around the world. Over 50 people died in the clashes.

There are around two billion Christians worldwide, just over half of them Catholic, and 1.3 billion Muslims