Aide: Pope Favors Dialogue With Islam

Comments on Response to Muslim Letter

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- As demonstrated in his response to the letter sent by 138 Muslim scholars, Benedict XVI believes in "sincere and frank dialogue" with Islam, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, said this in the most recent edition of the Vatican Television weekly program "Octava Dies," commenting on the Pope's mid-November response to the October letter sent by Muslim scholars calling for dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

He continued: "It was an important letter that highlighted the central place of love of God and neighbor in the Quran and the Hebrew and Christian Bible, and which had the clear intention of promoting the common commitment to peace in the entire world on the basis of a profound reciprocal understanding.

"The positive spirit of the letter was clear in its title: 'A Common Word Between Us and You,' a citation of a famous verse of the Quran addressed to the 'people of the book,' -- Jews and Christians.

"The Pope's response reminds us that we should not underrate the differences, but it also highlights above all that which unites; he encourages respect and knowledge of each other, and effective recognition of the dignity of every human person; he shows sincere confidence in a way of growing acceptance which is promising for the promotion of justice and peace."

"But the Pope does not stop at words," Father Lombardi added. "He invites the Muslim prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan to come to Rome with a delegation of promoters of the joint letter, and he proposes a meeting for reflection and study with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and some specialist Catholic academic institutions.

"In sum, the Pope believes in dialogue -- a sincere and frank dialogue."

"Even among Muslims there are many sharp and authoritative interlocutors," said the priest, "conscious of the great challenges humanity faces today, and it is something positive that among them a capacity is growing for common expression and a desire to explicitly declare themselves in favor of peace. The direction is the right one. We must help each other to continue this journey."