Catholic-Muslim group discusses religion in politics
Meeting in Rome this week, a joint commission of Catholic and Muslim scholars has focused on the danger of avoiding the partisan political exploitation of religious faith.
Each year since 1998, the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue has co-sponsored a meeting with the Al Azhar University of Egypt, with the scholarly sessions alternating between Rome and Cairo.
This year's meeting of the group took place on Tuesday, the anniversary of a private meeting between Pope John Paul II and Sheik Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the head of the Al Azhar University. The university, founded in 970, is the world's leading educational institution for Sunni Muslim clerics.
This year's meeting of the joint commission focused on political and religious stereotypes. "Self-criticism is important, because it breaks down the stereotypes that exist between Catholics and Muslims," said Youssef el Hage, a Lebanese Maronite, in a comment on the closed-door meetings. "The lack of self-criticism is a real obstacle to solid relations."
Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, argued that "religious leaders and politicians remain each in their own domain, and act independently."
Al Azhar delegation head Sheikh Fauzi al Zafzaf focused on the need to avoid prejudices: "We must distinguish between the basic principles of religions and the practices of their members, who are people with flaws."
Catholic-Muslim group discusses religion in politics (Catholic World News 25/2/04)
Al Azhar University
Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
26 Feb 2004