Vatican Hosts 1st Catholic-Muslim Forum

Muslim and Christian scholars have gathered in Vatican to improve relations between the world’s largest faiths during a three-day forum.

The first Catholic-Muslim Forum was launched on Tuesday to discuss the existing commonalities and differences between Islam and Christianity.

The meeting is the third conference of Muslims with Christians after the July talks with the United States Protestants and the Anglicans in October.

The session was opened with a moment of silence so that delegations, each comprising of 28 members and advisers, could say their own prayers for its success.

Tuesday’s talks focused on theological issues proposed by Muslims and the Wednesday meeting will discuss Vatican’s religious freedom issues.

The Vatican delegation includes bishops from minority Christian communities in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan and Muslim participants include Sunnis and Shiites from around the world as well as converts from the US, Canada and the UK.

The delegations will have an audience with Pope Benedict on Thursday and will hold a public discussion session, open to the media, the same day.

The forum will be held every two years, alternately in Rome and in a Muslim country, Reuters reported.

The forum is held two years after the Muslim world was angered at Pope Benedict’s speech, which implied that Islam was violent and irrational.

Muslim scholars invited Christian churches to a dialogue at the time to foster mutual respect through a better understanding of each other’s beliefs. Their manifesto, ‘A Common Word,’ argued that both faiths shared the core principles of love of God and neighbor.