Vatican Confirms Plan For Historic Meeting With Muslim Leaders This Year

Pope Benedict XVI, left, accompanied by Muslim clerics, security officers and others, visits Blue Mosque in Istanbul (File Photo)

A top Vatican official says a high-level delegation of Muslim clerics and scholars will travel to Rome in coming months to open a Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, confirmed the plans in an Italian Catholic weekly news report this week. Planning sessions with three visiting Muslim scholars in February or March will precede the larger meeting.

No date has been set for the larger session, but another cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, said it could take place by mid-June.

Cardinal Tauran was the Vatican’s foreign affairs chief in the early 1990s who later became a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Pope Benedict moved to facilitate the historic meeting after receiving an open letter in October from 138 Muslim scholars urging dialogue among Christians and Muslims on their common belief in one God.

The pontiff triggered controversy in 2006, when, while speaking in Germany, he cited a 14th century Christian emperor who called some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “evil and inhuman.”

Benedict later stressed that he did not share that view, and expressed remorse for the violent reaction in parts of the Muslim world to his comments.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.