Vatican: Pope Open To Meeting With Muslim Leaders

Pope Benedict XVI, in response to the letter sent by Muslim scholars, said he is willing to meet with Muslim representatives, announced the Vatican this week.

In the reply letter, the pope expressed “deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text [of the letter] and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world,” according to The Associated Press.

In October, 138 Muslim clerics, scholars and intellectuals from all the major sects signed a letter calling for peace between Muslims and Christians. The letter, entitled “A Common World Between Us and You,” urged followers of the two faiths to find “common ground” and not simply just for “polite ecumenical dialogue” between certain religious leaders.

The pope, in his response letter, emphasized the need for dialogue between Islam and Christianity that resists “downplaying” differences, but rather focuses on what unites, “namely, belief in one God,” the pope said.

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

Also recently, over 100 Christian leaders around the world collectively signed a response letter to the Muslim letter, calling on the two Abrahamic faiths to love God and neighbors together.

Signers of the letter, issued by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, included Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church; John Stott, rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London; and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The Christian leaders urged for an interfaith dialogue that moves beyond “polite” ecumenical talks between selected leaders. Instead, leaders of both faiths should hold dialogues to build relations that will “reshape” the two communities to “genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another,” the Christian letter stated.

“Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace,” the Christian letter noted. “If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that ‘our eternal souls’ are at stakes as well.”

The pope, meanwhile, said he was willing to receive Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed of Jordan, the monarch’s special adviser on religious matters, to whom the letter is addressed, as well as a select group of the letter’s signatories, according to AP.

The Vatican has been trying to improve Muslim-Vatican relations after a comment made by the Pope in 2006 about violence and Islam angered Muslims around the world.