Vatican, Muslims Hold Historic Talks

VATICAN CITY: The Pope will meet Muslim religious leaders and scholars later this year as part of a push for dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.

The meeting will a seminar in Rome on November 4-6. Two dozen leaders and scholars from each side will participate in the Catholic-Muslim forum.

Vatican officials have said such a papal audience would be “historic”.

The Vatican is eager to improve relations with moderate Islam, after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 about Islam and violence angered many in the Muslim world.

A group of Muslim scholars who have called for greater dialogue with Christians wrapped up two days of talks today at the Holy See, including with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, to prepare for the audience.

The talks led to setting up a permanent structure “to guarantee that Catholic-Muslim dialogue continues”, one of the talks’ participants, Aref Ali Nayed, told reporters.

That will be the forum, to be in Rome this northern autumn and, in later years, alternately between Muslim countries and Rome, said Mr Nayed, who directs the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.

Those periodic meetings are aimed at ensuring that Vatican-Muslim dialogue is “not a momentary exciting moment but a process”, Mr Nayed said.