Pope urges religions to work for peace, mum on Muslim letter
It would have been the Vatican equivalent of an instant reaction if Pope Benedict had actually mentioned the recent dialogue appeal by 138 Muslim scholars when he spoke today at a major inter-faith gathering in Naples. There were several comments from Catholic experts in the past week and an influential cardinal hinted he would have something to say. In the end, the Pope did not make a direct response. But he echoed the message that “faiths must work together to stamp out religiously motivated hatred which uses God as an excuse for violence,” as our reporter Phil Stewart wrote from Naples.
Not mentioning the letter explicitly does not indicate disagreement. His speech (here in English translation, here in Italian original) was focused on the theme of the meeting (“For a World without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”). In it, he also said, “The Catholic Church intends to continue to walk the path of dialogue to favour understanding among different cultures, traditions and religious learning. I strongly hope that this spirit (of peace) spreads above all where tensions are strongest, where freedom and the respect for others are denied and men and women suffer because of the consequences of intolerance.” So no doors have been closed, while no further details of the Vatican view have been given.
There was a small reminder of the Muslim appeal, however. At the lunch for the assembled religious leaders, Benedict sat at a table with Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Dr. Izzeldin Ibrahim. The latter was identified only as a cultural adviser to the United Arab Emirates government. How did he get a seat at the top table? We don’t know, but in doing a few quick checks to try to find out, Phil and our Dubai bureau dug up something a bit more interesting about him. Ibrahim is one of the 138 signatories of the Muslim appeal.