From: Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, June 13, 2008
VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday met a delegation of Muslim dignitaries at a Vatican meeting ahead of a high-level inter-faith forum this November. The Muslim delegation represented an Islamic international conference held early this month in Mecca which called for increased inter-faith dialogue, Algerian academic Mustapha Cherif said in a statement.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Roman Catholic Church's point man for dialogue with Islam, was present at the audience with the pope, the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano noted.
The conference titled "Christians and Muslims, Witnesses of the God of Justice, Peace and Compassion in a World that Suffers from Violence" was to continue until Friday. It will lay the groundwork for a high-level Catholic-Muslim Forum set to hold its inaugural meeting November 4-6 in Rome, with a follow-up to be held in a Muslim country in 2010.
The unprecedented forum was scheduled in early March in response to a letter by 138 Muslim leaders in October 2007 calling for heightened dialogue with Christians. The initiative was sparked by the pope's own controversial speech at a German university in 2006, when he appeared to link Islam with violence.
The structure could also be activated in case of a crisis such as the global uproar that followed the publication of cartoons of Mohammed in 2005. The conference in Mecca set up a center to promote inter-faith dialogue, as advocated by Saudi King Abdullah.