Pope Meets Islamic Envoys, Stresses Common Cause
Monday, September 25, 2006 12:00:00 AM GMT
Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the importance of dialogue between Christianity and Islam, at a September 25 meeting with envoys from Islamic countries and organizations.
The Holy Father stressed the interests that Christians and Muslims share in upholding the importance of faith, in "a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason."
The Pope did not refer directly to the controversial speech that he had delivered in Regensburg on September 12. But he did remark, near the beginning of his talk, that "the circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known." Vatican diplomats had worked quickly to invite Muslim diplomats to Castel Gandolfo, hoping to soothe the tensions that had arisen in the Islamic world after the Pope's talk.
Pope Benedict spoke in French to the group, which included the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See from countries with Muslim majorities, and about 15 representatives of Islamic groups active in Italy. In an unusual break from common practice, the Vatican furnished an Arabic translation of the Pope's remarks. The Arabic television network Al Jazeera provided live coverage of the meeting.
The Pope said that he wanted to express his "esteem and profound respect" for Muslims, and reminded the group that "from the very beginning of my pontificate" he had sought to continue the policies of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in making common cause with Islamic leaders. He cited his remarks to Muslim leaders in Cologne last August, when he said that cooperation between the two faiths is "a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends."
Gently introducing a main theme of his lecture in Regensburg, the Pontiff said that this cooperation is necessary in order to counteract the growing power of secularism and relativism. Christians and Muslims, he observed, can unite in many causes, "especially those concerning the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights arising from that dignity."
In pursuing their dialogue, the Pope continued, Christian and Islamic leaders should learn from "the lessons of the past," and recognize that it is crucially important "to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence."
The Pope concluded his remarks by sending his greetings to the Muslim world as the annual season of Ramadan begins. The Pope's address received warm applause from the diplomats who were present at Castelgandolfo. After finishing his talk, the Pontiff made a point of greeting each one of his guests individually. The diplomats present for the 30-minute audience included envoys from Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Kuwait, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen. Also included were representatives of the Arab League and the Islamic Council of Italy.
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