Pope challenges Islam on religious freedom

Benedict XVI yesterday challenged Muslim leaders on religious freedom in Islamic countries and insisted that interreligious dialogue must be based on "reciprocity" and mutual respect.

Catholic World News reports that speaking to the members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, who are gathered in Rome this week for their plenary meeting, the Holy Father said that the Church has "a growing awareness that interreligious dialogue is part of her commitment to serve mankind in the modern world."

In discussions with other faiths, the faithful "are not renouncing" their commitment to spread the Gospel, which is an intrinsic aspect of the Christian identity, the Pope said. Rather, they are hoping to build up "relations of mutual knowledge and respect," which can overcome animosity.

This effort is particularly important, he added, in an era of unprecedented migration, when believers of different faiths find themselves living in unfamiliar cultures.

"Christians must open their hearts especially to the poorest and neediest," the Pope said. He observed pointedly, "Obviously, we would hope that Christians who emigrate to countries with Muslim majorities will find a welcome there, and respect for their religious identity."

Pope Benedict thanked the Pontifical Council for Migrants for its work on "a significant frontier for the new evangelisation in today's world."

The focus of this year's three-day plenary session for the dicastery, chaired by Cardinal Renato Martino, is the challenge facing Christians who travel to, or live in, predominantly Islamic countries.

Vatican officials suggest that the theme was chosen after consultation with Pope Benedict, who has frequently expressed concern for the status of religious freedom in Muslim countries.

Benedict XVI has made specific appeals to Muslim leaders to respect the rights of Christians. In a March plea to Afghanistan's President Abdul Rahman, on behalf of a Christian facing death for "apostasy" from Islam, and in a February meeting with the ambassador from Morocco to the Holy See.

Last August, when he met with Muslim leaders in Cologne during his trip to that city for World Youth Day, the Pope stressed the importance of mutual respect as an essential ingredient of inter-religious dialogue.

(Photo credit: Stefano Spaziani)

Pope challenges Islam on religious freedom (Catholic World News 15/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

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16 May 2006