Vatican: Pope Expresses “Deep Appreciation” For Muslim Letter

Vatican City, 29 Nov. (AKI) – The Vatican has issued a much-awaited reply to a letter that 138 top Muslim scholars sent in October to Pope Benedict XV1 and other Christian leaders warning that global security was at risk if Muslims and Christians could not make peace.

The letter is addressed to Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal and signed by the Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone. It begins by expressing the Pope’s “deep appreciation” for the “positive spirit” which inspired the text sent to him by the scholars from every sect of Islam.

The Pope said there was “common ground” between Muslims and Christians.

“Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on respect for the dignity of every human person, on the objective knowledge of the other’s religion, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation,” he said in the letter.

The letter invites bin Talal and a delegation of Muslim scholars to meet the Pope and also proposes setting up meetings with Vatican bodies such as the Pontifical Council for Inter Religious Dialogue, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Bin Talal is president of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, a Jordan-based non-government organisation founded in 1980 by the late King Hussein, which drafted the letter the Muslim scholars sent to the Pope last month.

The Pope said it is important not to ignore or downplay the difference between Christians and Muslims.

But he said: “We can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge.”

Reiterating part of an address he made to representatives of Muslim Communities in Cologne, Germany in 2005, the Pope stressed: “We must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace.”

“There is plenty of scope for acting together in the service of fundamental moral values,” the Pope added.

Five Christian clerics from Italy’s top Islamic studies institute, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in late October praised the 29-page letter the Muslim scholars sent the Pope earlier last month.

The Christian scholars said they appreciated “the broad sweep of its perspectives,” the letter’s “evidence of deep respect and genuine attentiveness to others,” and “true scientific spirit.”