Young Muslims More Open To Interfaith Dialogue Says Vatican

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Catholic Church’s interfaith council says a new spirit of openness among younger Muslims is improving the “climate” of interreligious dialogue

Younger Muslims are radically altering the “climate” of interfaith dialogue, the head of the Vatican’s Council for interreligious dialogue has said.

“There is a change of climate [in interreligious dialogue] now” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said on Wednesday: “It is more open minded, there is greater cordiality. Many young Muslims in Eygpt, Lebanon, Syria, or Qatar have learned in local Catholic schools, where we welcome Muslim students. They all say the same thing: “We have been in your schools for years but you have never proselytised.”’ The young generation realise we can’t be against each other. Believers of all religions have greater responsibility towards the human family.”

During a brief visit to Britain this week, Cardinal Tauran met the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and several Anglican bishops to discuss the challenge of terrorism motivated by religious fundamentalism. “Schools and universities are the answer” he said, adding that Muslim leaders had “great responsibility” to “shape” the minds of young believers.

The Cardinal’s comments follow the creation by Pope Benedict XVI last March of a permanent Muslim-Catholic forum. It was set up after 138 Muslim scholars wrote an “open letter” to the Pope and other Christian leaders last year. Written in the wake of Muslim criticism of Benedict XVI for a 2006 speech during which he quoted a Byzantine Emperor who had spoken of the Prophet Muhammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith”, the letter stated that the future of the world depended on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The 29 page document appealed for members of both faiths to find common ground, quoting both the Bible and the Qu’ran. Cardinal Tauran said: “What is new is that this letter is an initiative from the Muslim side, until now the initiatives have come from Christians. The Church has been in dialogue with Islam for more than 30 years, following the publication of Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions) the Church’s teaching document from Vatican II which states that the Catholic Church rejects “nothing of what is Holy and True” in other religions.”

Catholic-Muslim dialogue is “an exchange of spiritual gifts, ” he said. “Benedict XVI has made it clear in his speeches that interreligious dialogue is not an option but a vital necessity.” Last year, Cardinal Tauran was criticised after appearing to suggest, in an interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, that theological dialogue with Islam was impossible “at the moment”. The Muslim-Catholic forum will hold its first meeting this November in Rome. No Saudi or Iranian Muslim scholars are thought to be attending the November conference.