Christian clerics from Italy’s top Islamic Studies institute praised the letter sent to the Pope earlier this month, written and signed by 138 Muslim scholars. Citing its broad scope, intent to actively seek peace, and believability of intention, the Christian clerics have high hopes that the letter will heal some of the divide between Muslims and Christians.
In a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders, 138 Muslim scholars urged co-existence, noting the similarities of both faiths in the Bible and the Quran. “If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace… our common future is at stake,” the letter said. Entitled ‘A Common Word Between Us and You,” the letter is the second of its kind – the first was sent after the Pope’s controversial remarks about Muhammad last year.
The New Yorker is publishing a long article on the difficult relationship between the Vatican and Islam. “These are fierce theological times. It should come as no surprise that the Vatican and Islam are not getting along, or that their problems began long before Pope Benedict XVI made his unfortunate reference to the Prophet Muhammad, in a speech in Regensburg last September, and even before the children of Europe’s Muslim immigrants discovered beards, burkas, and jihad. There are more than a billion Catholics in the world, and more than a billion Muslims. And what divides the most vocal and rigidly orthodox interpreters of their two faiths, from the imams of Riyadh and the ayatollahs of Qom to the Pope himself, is precisely the things that Catholicism and Islam have always had in common: a purchase on truth; a contempt for the moral accommodations of liberal, secular states; a strong imperative to censure, convert, and multiply; and a belief that Heaven, and possibly earth, belongs exclusively to them. (…)”
Europe is moving towards self-apostasy, forgetting the universal and absolute values which it once sparked. As it demographically implodes, it might have reached its twilight in history,losing its confidence in its own future, this according to Benedict XV. In a passionate analysis of the current state of the old continent the Holy Father spoke to participants of a congress about the Treaties of Rome, titled Values and Perspectives for Europe’s future, sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). In his address he highlighted the many positive aspects that European integration has brought about like the fall of the curtain of injustice between east and west, the reconciliation of Europe’s eastern and western lungs, the search of economic integration and an appropriate institutional structure for the European Union which now includes 27 members and aspires to a global role in the world. Another important issue that the Pontiff highlighted was the need for a better balance between wealth, competitiveness and the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised. But Benedict XVI also slammed the attempt to build a common house by disregarding the identities of the peoples of the continent and dismissing Christianity in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves. The Holy Father stressed the ambiguity that characterises the European Union in which the search for moral values and the common good takes place by means of compromises that involve agreements that are harmful to man’s nature, thus betraying the role as spark and yeast of universal values the continent has always performed. In the Pope’s opinion among the causes of the current situation, pragmatism, relativism and especially secularism stand out since because of them Christians see themselves denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution [treated] as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges. Finally, the Pontiff urged Christians to strongly defend the truth of man without being discouraged. You know that with God’s help you must contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel. Here is the full text of the Pope’s speech: Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen! I am particularly pleased to greet you in such great numbers at this Audience on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. On that day an important step was taken in a Europe that had come out of World War Two beaten, a continent that sought a future of peace and greater social and economic prosperity in which nations would neither deny nor lose their identities. I am pleased to greet Mgr Adrianus Herman van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam and Chairman of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and thank him for his kind words. I am pleased to greet the other prelates, the distinguished guests and all those who are taking part in the congress currently under way sponsored by COMECE in order to reflect on Europe. Since that month of March 50 years ago, this continent has gone a long way and this has led to the reconciliation of its eastern and Western halves, its two _lungs’, linked by a common history that a curtain of injustice had arbitrarily split. Economic integration has stimulated this political process and favoured the still ongoing and difficult search for an appropriate institutional structure for the European Union which now includes 27 members and aspires to exercise a global role in the world. In recent years people have come understand more and more the need for a better balance between economic and social policies based on actions that can create wealth and increase competitiveness without disregarding the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised. However, from a demographic point of view Europe seems to be on a path that might lead to its twilight in history. Not only does that threaten its economic growth but it could cause huge problems in terms of social cohesion, and especially favour a dangerous individualism that does not care about the future might have in store. One might even think that the European continent is losing confidence in its future. As for respect for the environment and a balanced access to resources and energy investments, there is little solidarity at both international and national levels. And the process of European unification itself does not seem welcome to everyone because many _chapters’ of the project seem to have been _written’ with little consideration for what people expect. From all this it is clear that it is unthinkable that we can build an authentic “common European house” by disregarding the identities of the peoples of this continent of ours. It is an historical, cultural and moral identity even before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of universal values in which Christianity played a role in moulding them, which gives it a role that is not only historical but also foundational vis-_-vis Europe. Such values, which constitute the continent’s soul, must continue in the Europe of the third millennium as a _spark’ of civilisation. Should they fail, how could the “old” continent play the role of “yeast” for the whole world? If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the governments of the Union want to be “closer” to their citizens, how can they exclude from Europe’s identity an essential element like Christianity in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves? Is it surprising then, that whilst it aspires to be a comm+H582unity of values, modern Europe seems to question universal and absolute values? Even before it is against God, doesn’t this singular form of _self-apostasy’ not lead the continent to doubt its own identity? We end up this way spreading the view that _judging the goods’ is the only way for moral judgment and that having a common good is synonymous with compromise. In reality, if reaching compromises is a legitimate act of balancing different interests, it becomes a common evil every time it involves agreements that are harmful to man’s nature. A community that is built without respect for the authentic dignity of human beings, that forgets that each person is created in God’s image, ends up not doing any one any good. This is why it is seems ever more necessary that Europe be wary of that widespread pragmatic attitude that systematically justifies compromising on essential human values as if accepting an allegedly lesser evil inevitable. Ultimately such pragmatism is not as balanced and realistic as some might have it because it denies human nature its inherent value-oriented and idealistic dimensions. When on such pragmatism are grafted secular and relativistic tendencies and currents, we end up with Christians as such being denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution dismissed as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges. In the present historical moment and its many challenges, if the European Union is to uphold the rule of law and effectively promote universal values, we must clearly recognise that human nature has something stable and permanent to it and that it is the source of common rights for all individuals, including even those who deny them. In this context, the right to conscientious objection must be safeguarded every time fundamental human rights are violated. Dear friends, I know how difficult it is for Christians to indefatigably defend the truth of man. Never be weary, nor be discouraged! You know that with God’s help you shall contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel. For this reason never shy away from European public debates and be aware that Europe is already a part of what goes on at the national level. In addition, tak
e effective actions in the cultural sphere. Do not submit to the logic of power for power’s sake! Let Christ’s warning be a constant stimulus and support: _But if salt loses its taste [. . .] It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (cf Mt 5: 13). May the Lord make all your efforts fruitful and help you recognise the value of that which is positive in today’s civilisation; may it give courage to denounce all that is contrary to human dignity. I am certain that God shall not fail to bless the generous effort of those, in a spirit of service, work to build a common European house in which every cultural, social and political contribution is geared towards the common good. To you, who are already involved in various ways in that important human and evangelical enterprise, I direct my strongest encouragement. In particular, I assure you that I shall remember you in my prayers and, whilst I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh, I give you, your families and communities in a heartfelt manner my most affectionate blessing._
A Spanish Muslim group has asked Pope Benedict XVI for permission to worship alongside Christians in the Great Mosque of Cordoba, turned into a cathedral in the 13th century. They sent a letter on Christmas to the Pope’s Spanish representative, asking that the building be opened for prayer by all religions as a model of tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. They hoped to follow up on the Pope’s recent gestures of goodwill towards Muslims on his trip to Turkey. “We invite you to create a new example, to send a message of hope to the world,” says the letter, which was published yesterday on the Spanish Muslim website Webislam. “Do not fear. Together we can show the violent, the intolerant, the anti-semites, the Islam-phobes and also those who believe that only Islam has a right to remain in the world, that prayer is the strongest weapon imaginable.” In 2004, the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue rejected a similar request, leaving the decision to Spanish church authorities, who oppose Muslim prayer at the cathedral.
The enemy wears a dark blue tie over a striped shirt under a black suit jacket, gold-rimmed glasses and a friendly twinkle in his eye. He speaks English with an Asian accent, prays five times a day, searches Berlin’s eateries for sticky rice, and is surprised by the ticket controls in the S-Bahn. The enemy speaks quietly, out of obligation; he lets the other speak more, he doesn’t complain about the Pope, doesn’t protest over the opera and his wife and daughters don’t wear the headscarf. The enemy does not consider himself to be the enemy. And probably he isn’t. Probably. This article goes on to convey the points of view of a variety of second or third generation immigrant Berlin Muslims, with particular attention to the controversy over the Berlin Opera’s cancelled performance of “Idomeneo”.
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell finds Turks wary of the Pope’s historic visit and grapples with the religious controversy sparked by the pontiff’s speech in Bavaria. It must be a very strange visit for the Pope. In Turkey there are none of the cheering, adoring crowds he must be used to by now. The largish figure in white robes is hustled along by men in dark suits from mausoleum to bullet-proof car, from the car into the next meeting.
Pope Benedict XVI has expressed “total and profound respect” for Muslims, as he attempts to defuse a row between Islam and the Catholic Church. He made the remarks in a meeting with envoys from the Muslim world, weeks after a speech in Germany prompted an angry reaction by some Muslims. Iraq’s ambassador said it was time to move on from the row and build bridges. But the Indonesian envoy said he was surprised that there was no direct dialogue at the meeting. In the space of just half an hour, the pontiff made a brief speech to envoys before greeting them individually, but there was no general discussion. Muslim leaders had been demanding an unequivocal apology from the Pope for his words. Dialogue welcomed The meeting was held at the Pope’s residence near Rome. Ambassadors from 21 countries and a representative from the Arab League attended, as well as Islamic representatives in Italy. Of mainly Muslim countries with diplomatic relations with the Vatican, only Sudan failed to attend. “I would like today to stress my total and profound respect for all Muslims,” the Pope said in the speech. He called for “sincere and respectful dialogue”, adding that Christians and Muslims alike must reject all forms of violence and respect religious liberty. Correspondents say the latter was a reference to restrictions on the church’s activity in some Muslim countries. “Since the beginning of my pontificate I have had occasion to express my wish to continue to establish bridges of friendship with believers of all religions, showing particularly my appreciation in the belief in dialogue between Muslims and Christians,” he said. “…The inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims is, in effect, a vital necessity, on which a large part of our future depends.” He also quoted his predecessor, John Paul II, stating the need for “reciprocity in all fields”. Iraqi ambassador Albert Yelda said he was satisfied by the Pope’s remarks. “I think it is time to put what happened behind us and build bridges among all the civilisations,” he said. But in a BBC interview, the ambassador of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, pointed out that the Pope had not referred directly to the speech which sparked the controversy. “We had hoped that there would have been a dialogue, but that was not the case,” Bambang Prayitno said. “There was no dialogue between the Pope and the guests… In general, we were actually a bit surprised that the meeting was a short one and just like that.” ‘Misunderstood’ The pontiff has expressed regret following the reactions in some countries to words of a speech he made in southern Germany earlier in the month. On Wednesday, he told pilgrims at the Vatican that his remarks in Bavaria last week had been “misunderstood”. He said his use of a quote from a 14th-Century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologos, did not reflect his personal opinion. The quote says: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The Pope said his real intention had been to “explain that religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do”.
PARIS: A few sentences spoken by Pope Benedict XVI were sufficient to touch off a firestorm of impassioned reaction. Throughout the Muslim world, religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices with protesting masses angered by a perceived insult to their faith. Most did not read the pope’s speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the pope had linked Islam and violence. But all railed against what they saw as an intolerable offense.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s apology for comments he made earlier in the week about Islam. Islamic groups called for an apology after the Pope quoted a 14th Century emperor’s views the Prophet Muhammad was “evil and inhuman” in a speech.