Posted September 27, 2006
Pope Says Dialogue With Islam Vital for Future
Meets With Muslim Leaders and Diplomats
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, September 25, 2006
Benedict XVI met with Muslim leaders of Italy and diplomats from 21 Islamic countries and stressed that the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is decisive for the future of humanity.
The Pope said he called today's meeting to "strengthen the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the Holy See and Muslim communities throughout the world," in the wake of controversy over his Sept. 12 address at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The Arab-language broadcaster Al-Jazeera carried the papal speech live.
"In this particular context, I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers," said the Holy Father.
He recalled the Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate," which expresses officially the Church's "appreciation" for Muslims who "worship the one God."
Benedict XVI's address, delivered in French, was also distributed among the diplomats in an Arabic translation, in addition to the English and Italian versions.
The Pope did not address the issue of the interpretations of his address at Regensburg. On two occasions last week he clarified his quotation from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as a means to present the problem of the relationship between religion and violence. The quotation sparked violence and drew criticism from some Muslims.
To dispel doubts, the Holy Father said that "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."
Not an option
"Interreligious and intercultural 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," Benedict XVI said. Thus he confirmed what he explained on Aug. 20, 2005, in Cologne, Germany, when meeting with representatives of Muslim communities.
He continued: "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 cooperation, to overcome all the tensions together.
"Continuing, then, the work undertaken by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I sincerely pray that the relations of trust which have developed between Christians and Muslims over several years, will not only continue, but will develop further in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue."
This dialogue, Benedict XVI added, must be "based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognizes the religious values that we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue is a necessity for building together this world of peace and fraternity ardently desired by all people of good will.
"Faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence; as for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction."
Among the common challenges faced by Muslims and Christians, the Holy Father mentioned "the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity."
He added: "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."