Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, just returned from by byb38912


									Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, just returned from an historic visit to
Turkey, where he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern
Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, and also with leaders of the Islamic
community, since Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

In the future I would like to talk about the pope’s meeting with the patriarch,
but today I want to comment on the Holy Father’s meeting with Turkey’s
Islamic leaders, a meeting that is especially noteworthy in these days when
dialogue between Christians and Muslims is increasingly seen as an essential
element in the fight against international terrorism. On the occasion of last
year’s World Youth Day in Cologne, Pope Benedict called such dialogue
between Christians and Muslims “a vital necessity, on which in large
measure our future depends.”

The contemporary attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Islamic
community was formally set down in 1965 in the Declaration on the Relation
of the Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions, issued by the Second
Vatican Council. In that document, the council fathers solemnly declared:
“The Church has a high regard for Muslims. They worship God, who is one,
living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and
earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without
reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to
God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not
acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin
Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they
await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection
of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship
God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds, and fasting.”

While acknowledging a past marred by many misunderstandings and
conflicts between the two religions, the declaration called for a change of
attitude on the part of both Christians and Muslims: “Over the centuries
many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims.
The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a
sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all
men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and
moral values.”

Pope John Paul II reaffirmed these sentiments during his dramatic visit to
the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria in May, 2001—the first time a
pope ever visited a mosque. On that occasion, he said, “It is important that
Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological
questions together, in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive
knowledge of each others’ religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will
surely lead, at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two
religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in
partnership for the good of the human family.” (Emphasis added by the pope.)

There is, in fact, much common ground between Christian and Muslims
regarding the sanctity of human life, as John Paul II pointed out in an
address that he delivered just two months after the September 11, 2001
terrorist attack:

“Both Muslims and Christians insist upon the essentially transcendent
character of the human person, created by God for a higher destiny, and the
need to respect that element of transcendence in each individual... For Islam
and Christianity, human life is a sacred and inviolable reality, since it has its
origin and destiny in God himself. Therefore, it is never possible to invoke
peace and despise life, a contradiction found all too often within human
societies and human hearts. In cultures of both East and West, rich and poor,
traditional and post-industrial, respect for human life is being threatened
and eroded in so many ways. A great educational effort is needed in all
religious traditions to teach the sacred value of life and spread an attitude of
respect for it in every circumstance. This is the point where Islam and
Christianity can and must meet, not only in a dialogue of words, but in a
dialogue of service for the peace of the world.”

The task of coming to know and respect each other’s religious traditions is
especially urgent and necessary in light of the attempts by terrorist
organizations like al-Qaeda to foment hatred between the Islamic world and
the West. Pope Benedict’s visit to Turkey to an important sign that the
Catholic Church is committed to dialogue with Islam. In meeting with
Islamic leaders last week, the Holy Father said, “We [Christians and
Muslims] are called to work together, so as to help society to open itself to the
transcendent, giving Almighty God his rightful place. The best way forward
is via authentic dialogue between Christians and Muslims, based on truth
and inspired by a sincere wish to know one another better, respecting
differences and recognizing what we have in common. This will lead to an
authentic respect for the responsible choices that each person makes,
especially those pertaining to fundamental values and to personal religious

Let us pray that this dialogue may be furthered by people of good will,
leading to mutual respect and appreciation, and greater peace in the world.

Have a great week!

Father Tappe

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