Fr Christophe Roucou, head of the French Catholic Church’s Service for Relations with Islam in Paris, Sept 28, 2013/Tom Heneghan

Catholic-Muslim dialogue has led to extensive ties of friendship and cooperation in recent decades in France, but enthusiasm for interreligious contacts seems to be waning and some younger religious leaders from both faiths question its usefulness and even show some hostility, according to Catholic and Muslim speakers at a conference in Paris.

Meeting to mark the 40th anniversary of the French Catholic Church’s Service for Relations with Islam (SRI), several speakers recounted how they went from strangers to friends through the interreligious dialogue that was launched by the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

Muslim and Catholic dialogue delegates from around the country told of how they got to know each other’s faith, launched joint projects like soup kitchens and helped mixed-faith couples prepare for marriage and navigate possible cultural tensions after the wedding day.

But several speakers, especially on the Catholic side, could not hide a certain disappointment at the lack of more progress of interfaith relations here and in the Muslim world.