At Dome of Rock, Benedict uses Muslims’ argument to Muslims

May 12, 2009

pope-dome-outsideAt Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, part of the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary complex including Islam’s third-holiest mosque Al-Aqsa, Pope Benedict urged Palestinian Muslim leaders to pursue interfaith cooperation by using an argument that other Muslims have been using to engage Christians — including himself — in dialogue. The need for interfaith dialogue is emerging as one of the two most consistent themes of Benedict’s speeches during his current Middle East tour (the other being the link between faith and reason). Appeals like this risk being empty phrases, but he has given some new twists that make them stand out.

(Photo: Pope at Dome of the Rock, 12 May 2009/Israeli govt. handout)

In his speech to Muslim leaders this morning, the pope said reason shows us the shared nature and common destiny of all people. He then said: “Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbour thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns.” Readers of this blog may recognise that message in a slightly different form — it echoes the “Common Word” appeal by Muslim scholars to a Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the two shared principles of love of God and love of neighbour. Since we’ve reported extensively about that initiative, readers may also remember that the Vatican was initially quite cautious about it. Up until the Catholic-Muslim forum in Rome last November, the line from the Vatican was that Christians and Muslims couldn’t really discuss theology because their views of God were so different. Vatican officials sounded different after three days of talks and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is in charge of interfaith relations, said the Common Word group could even become a “privileged channel” for discussions in future. And now Benedict uses their argument to other Muslims.

Another new element — Benedict has begun using core Islamic terms to build bridges to his Muslim audience. Speaking at the King Hussein Mosque in Amman, he referred to God as “merciful and compassionate.” Today, he spoke of a shared belief “that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy.” He even expressed the hope that Muslim-Christian dialogue explores “how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family.” The Trinity is one of the biggest stumbling blocks between Christianity and Islam. Muslims see it as belief in three separate Gods, unlike the three persons in one God as Christians understand it. Centuries of Muslim anti-Christian rhetoric is built on the idea that Christianity is not really monotheistic like Islam (and Judaism, by the way). If the detailed theological discussions the Common Word group has launched lead to a better understanding of this issue, even if no agreement is possible, that would still be major progress.

pope-dome-entersOn the plane flying to Amman, Benedict suggested the Vatican might expand its series of bilateral interreligious contacts to include a trilateral forum with Christians, Muslims and Jews. He hasn’t mentioned that since then, but it’s an interesting idea. Rabbis have attended some meetings between the Common Word Muslim scholars and Christian scholars.

(Photo: Pope Benedict enters Dome of the Rock, 12 May 2009/Israeli govt. handout)

After noticing the echo of the Common Word appeal in Benedict’s address, I checked to see whether his Muslim hosts were signatories of the document. They weren’t. In fact, the only Palestinian I could find who has signed it is Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the head of the Islamic courts in the Palestinian territories. He’s the one who upset an otherwise harmonious interfaith meeting with the pope yesterday with a fiery denunciation of Israel that Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi later called “a direct negation of what a dialogue should be.”

Right after his meeting with the Muslim leaders, Pope Benedict went down to the nearby Western Wall to meet Jewish leaders and insert a personal note in a crack in the ancient wall. The prayer called Jerusalem the “spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims.” It was a continuation of the message he had just delivered up at the esplanade level. He later went to meet Israel’s two grand rabbis and assured them the Vatican remained “irrevocably committed to the path chosen at the Second Vatican Council for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews.”

10 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Finally.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

May God bless the pope as he comes in peace to these people.

Posted by Liseux | Report as abusive

Does Allah has a son? If so then he can be called God. If not…is he realy the god that the Pope are talking about?

Posted by J An | Report as abusive

J An,

The word “God” in Arabic is “Allah.”. Even Christians who speak Arabic call God “Allah.”

Point being — you are arguing about “God” being “God” seems rather silly.

Posted by Bruce Roeder | Report as abusive

J An,

I think you believe that the creator of all of us is the ‘Allah’ – in your language, or the GOD.

I am Indian. In our culture, we call our creator – ‘Father’. I think, so is in your culture also.

When the ‘Allah’ / ‘GOD’ is our creator, why shouldn’t we call him as our Father?

Jesus realised it to the full extent and procalimed to the world that he is the son of GOD.

In fact we all are. The only difference is whether we realise our Father and act always as his children.

Jesus acted 100% as his Father’s child. So he deserves his identity which rest of the world cannot claim always.

Regards,
Jose

Posted by Jose | Report as abusive

Theists co opting reason? You people are dumb as a bag of hammers. Lie and deceive that’s your game. Ghosts and witches and talking animals and flying people that’s your style, force that on children. Anything to put cash in the basket and humanity on it’s knees. Despicable. Get an honest job.

Posted by lobsterbobable | Report as abusive

This is great news. As the Dalai Lama has said “Let this be a century of dialog.”

The Dalai Lama also believes that people of all faiths have the potential to be good people. So do I.

I have friends who are Christian Arabs and they refer to God as Allah.

In Buddhism we are taught that if we walk around thinking “I am Buddhist”, we have missed the point. Because we are more than our limited notions of identity.

As Rumi says:

Not Christian or Jew or
Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
Not any religion

or cultural system. I am
not from the east
or the west, not
out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not
natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all.
I do not exist,

am not an entity in this
world or the next,
did not descend from
Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is
the placeless, a trace
of the traceless.
Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two
worlds as one and
that one
call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner,
only that breath breathing

human being.
sufi mystic – jelaluddin rumi – 13th century

Posted by NairobiGuy | Report as abusive

That’s almost clever but… Jews don’t believe god had a son either yet you can plainly tell that both the Jewish and Christian god are one and the same. The god of Abraham.

All pointless in my opinion. Faith will only continue to die, even the Chatholics, now proclaiming that homosexuals are welcome as a desperate grab for converts, will not slow their own demise.

Posted by Obviously | Report as abusive

How many more have to die for the sake of some to forcing their mental picture of some imaginary being on others?

Posted by PeterAnnet | Report as abusive

One G-d ,Lives within me . I struggle to hear and understand . The struggle is within . Does anyone disagree?

Posted by innerstruggle | Report as abusive