Catholic bishops want practical results from Muslim dialogue

October 27, 2008

The synod of Roman Catholic bishops that just ended in Rome has reminded the Vatican that it wants concrete issues such as religious freedom for Christians in the Islamic world to be part of any dialogue with Muslims. It’s not as if the Vatican has forgotten this — check out a recent statement by Rev. Christian Troll S.J., a leading Church expert on Islam. All this comes as the Vatican and the Common Word group of Muslim scholars prepare for the Catholic-Islamic Forum due in Rome next week.

The full text of the bishops’ proposal (number 53 of the 55 published only in Italian) reads in English:

“The Church regards with esteem … the Muslims who worship the one God” (Nostra Aetate 3). They refer to Abraham and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. The dialogue with them permits us to know each other better and cooperate in the promotion of ethical and spiritual values.

“In this dialogue, the synod insists on the importance of respect for life, for the human rights of men and women, as well as for the distinction between the socio-political order and the religious order in the promotion of justice and peace in the world. Another important issue in this dialogue will be reciprocity and the freedom of conscience and religion.

“It is suggested that the national bishops’ conferences, where it is deemed useful, create groups to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims.”

These issues touch the practical side of what the Catholics want out of this exchange with Muslim scholars. For their part, some Muslim participants have been saying they feel some urgency about showing some concrete improvements to their communities. The Common Word dialogue is very much focused on theological level of dialogue, but practical considerations are never far away.

Item: reports from Saudi Arabia say King Abdullah may go to the United Nations in mid-November to discuss his interfaith dialogue campaign. This would be a follow-up to the meeting he hosted in Madrid back in July. This effort seems aimed at promoting better inter-faith understanding at the official or diplomatic level, which is another way to approach the issue.

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