Vatican’s Islam institute Praises Muslim Dialogue Appeal

Church tower and mosque minaret in Amman

While Muslim scholars wait for an official Vatican response, more Catholic Islam experts have spoken out in favour of the scholars’ appeal for high-level talks between Muslim and Christian leaders. Five professors from the Vatican’s own Islam institute have described the appeal by 138 Muslim scholars as “a highly significant event” that showed “a new and creative attitude” towards the Koran. The five, all priests, include the rector and the dean of studies at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome.

The interesting aspect here is that the experts seem to take a more positive view of the initiative than the Vatican apparently does. So do the other Christian leaders who have responded. The Catholic experts’ responses have not been without critical reflections — see the analyses from Jesuit scholars Samir Khalil Samir and Christian Troll. But most approach it as a novel opportunity to launch a serious dialogue, while comments by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran — the Church’s top official for relations with Islam — seemed to focus more on obstacles to further understanding. He said, for example, that a real theological discussion was not possible with Muslims because they did not question and analyse the Koran as Christian theologians dissect the Bible.

The PISAI professors’ letter said they wanted “to enter with an open mind into the dynamic of this event” and were “convinced of the good faith of those who produced it.” They said the 138 Muslim scholars had taken “a new and creative attitude relative to the Koranic text”. They noted several points on which the scholars took a broader and more inclusive approach than Muslims have usually done. “We note the emergence of a new attitude,” they wrote.

The professors are PISAI Rector Fr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Dean of Studies Fr. Etienne Renaud. Fr. Michel Lagarde, Fr. Valentino Cottini and Fr. Felix Phiri.