Press Fails to Halt Muslim-Catholic Meeting

Still Set for Nov. 4-5

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By Jesús Colina



VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Despite misleading reports by the Italian media on remarks made about Islam during the world Synod of Bishops, a Catholic-Muslim meeting planned for next month is going forward.

Articles in the Italian press last weekend took comments from a synodal working group out of context regarding certain facets of Islam, making it sound as if the synod fathers were proposing to break off dialogue with Muslims.

The reports came just weeks ahead of a Catholic-Muslim meeting on the theme "Love of God, Love of Neighbor." The Nov. 4-5 meeting, sponsored by the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue, will bring together delegates from the 138 Muslim intellectual and religious leaders who signed an open letter to Christian leaders last year.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of that Vatican dicastery, spoke to the synodal assembly on Saturday about the Muslim meeting. He explained that regarding Muslim-Catholic dialogue, the foundational text for Catholics continues to be "Nostra Aetate" from the Second Vatican Council.

The cardinal also referenced an earlier synod presentation from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, in which a Catholic-Muslim forum was proposed to discuss the Word of God. Cardinal Tauran suggested it would be more opportune to speak of an interreligious forum, since Christians do not share with Muslims the Koran as revelation.

In this context, the Italian press reported on an observation from the Spanish A working group regarding the Muslim concept of women's rights. The working group noted Friday that Islamic treatment of women does not accord with the Christian doctrine on the fundamental rights of the human person.

News reports over the weekend interpreted this as a rejection of dialogue. The articles included comments from Muslim leaders criticizing the supposed recommendation.

Mario Scialoja, a representative of the World Muslim League, said it was "excessive" to detain dialogue because of a diverse concept on women's rights.

The working group, however, merely noted objective differences that exist between Islamic and Catholic teaching, especially regarding the concept of marriage and family.