Will Pope Benedict respond to the Muslim dialogue appeal on Sunday?
Will Pope Benedict respond to the dialogue appeal by 138 Muslim scholars this Sunday? After only 10 days? That would be almost breakneck speed. I have to admit I expected the Vatican to take a lot longer in responding to the unprecedented appeal. Even called it “the slow boat in the convoy” among Christians.
But Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Rome’s main official for dealing with Islam, came out today with a heavy hint that something was expected. In an interview with the French Catholic daily La Croix (here in French), he mentioned that Benedict would be speaking in Naples on Sunday at the opening of the Sant’Egidio community’s interfaith conference “For a World Without Violence.”
“The pope will be there at the start and will certainly say something,” Tauran said, without letting on anything else. A bit thin, but given the way this former Vatican foreign minister weighs his words, that could be a signal.
Tauran’s interview was even more interesting for another signal it sent. The Vatican certainly wants a serious dialogue with Islam, but take a firm stand and not let some divisive issues be swept under the carpet. My story for the Reuters wire says:
The top Vatican official for Islam has praised a novel Muslim call for dialogue but said real theological debate with them was difficult as they saw the Koran as the literal word of God and would not discuss it in depth.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in an interview on Friday with the French Catholic daily La Croix, also said Christians would have to discuss curbs on building churches in the Islamic world in the dialogue advocated by 138 Muslim scholars in the appeal.
His interview, coming after mostly positive comments by other Catholic Islam experts, signaled the world’s largest Christian church wanted a serious dialogue with Muslims that did not avoid some fundamental issues dividing the religions.
Read the full story here .
Since Tauran’s interview is in French, here are a few key quotes in translation:
“One aspect that particularly struck me was that, maybe for the first time, a text signed by Muslims presented the Jesus of the Gospels with quotes from the New Testament, and not based on quotes from the Koran. Furthermore, this text was signed by both Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims.”
“This initiative shows well that, with good will and a respectful dialogue, we can overcome prejudices. We have here an eloquent example of the ‘dialogue of spiritualities’.”
“The pope (has) explained the approach we should take in the dialogue: to be ready to ‘take account of the hope that is in us'; to consider every believer as our neighbour, and not an adversary or a competitor; to start from our common values. The Pope is very careful to make sure we do not fall into relativism. But that does not forbid us from appreciating all that is true and holy in the other religions. Religion leads to the worst as well as to the best. It can be a project of holiness or a project of domination.”
Asked if there could be theologican discussions in this framework, he said:
“With certain religions, yes. But with Islam, no, not now. “Muslims do not accept that one can discuss the Koran in depth, because they say it was written by dictation from God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the contents of faith.”
“In a dialogue among believers, it is fundamental to say what is good for one is good for the other. For example, we must explain to the Muslims that if they can have mosques in Europe, it is normal that churches can be built in their countries.”