Monday, October 02, 2006

Pope Benedict's Meeting with Muslims

I just read the speech Pope Benedict gave to Muslim Leaders at his summer residence on September 25. It deserves to be widely reported in the Arab and the Western Press. Here are some highlights:

I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers, calling to mind the words of the Second Vatican Council which for the Catholic Church are the Magna Carta of Muslim-Christian dialogue: "The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God."

Placing myself firmly within this perspective, I have had occasion, since the very beginning of my pontificate, to express my wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

As I underlined at Cologne last year, "Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Meeting with Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). In a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason, we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together.


As Pope John Paul II said in his memorable speech to young people at Casablanca in Morocco, "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom. They favour peace and agreement between peoples"

Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that in the current world situation it is imperative that Christians and Muslims engage with one another in order to address the numerous challenges that present themselves to humanity, especially those concerning the defence and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity. When threats mount up against people and against peace, by recognizing the central character of the human person and by working with perseverance to see that human life is always respected, Christians and Muslims manifest their obedience to the Creator, who wishes all people to live in the dignity that he has bestowed upon them.

Excellent. This was so much more clear than his controversial university address in Regensburg, which I tried to read but simply couldn't plow through. I saw three clear messages the September 25th address:
  1. The Church and the Pope respect the desire of Muslims to submit themselves to the will of the creator.
  2. Pope Benedict recognizes that the future of Catholics, Muslims, and the entire world depends on a sincere meaningful dialogue between Muslims and the church.
  3. The starting point for this dialogue is reciprocity, which would grant Christians living in Muslim dominated areas the same religious freedom that is given to Muslims in Western countries and other Christian areas.
I believe the Holy Spirit guided the Church in preparing this address. I also believe that this message, much more than the Regensburg address will be a defining moment in Benedict's ministry as Pope.

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