Let's talk, Benedict tells Muslim ambassadors

In his meeting with ambassadors from mostly Muslim countries yesterday in Rome, the Pope insisted that Christian-Muslim dialogue is a "vital necessity" on which "our future depends".

The Catholic News Agency reports that during the meeting with Muslim clerics and ambassadors Pope Benedict reiterated his desire to continue down the road of sincere dialogue in order to foster peace in the world.

The Pope told the leaders that dialogue between Christians and Muslims, "cannot be reduced to an optional extra."

Benedict clearly indicated his desire to forge ahead with interfaith talks, barely mentioning the comments which have caused an uproar in the Muslim world.

"The circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known," Benedict commented, repeating his regrets that offence had been taken and his assurances that the views of emperor Manuel II in no way reflect his own.

Citing the Vatican Council II document "Nostra Aetate" as the "Magna Carta" for the Church's position on Muslim-Christian dialogue, Pope Benedict said that "the Church looks upon Muslims with respect".

Assuring them that the Vatican II statement was the "perspective" from which he viewed the dialogue, the Pope noted his efforts at continuing the dialogue from the beginning of his Pontificate.

Benedict said that he hopes the work of Christian-Muslim dialogue, advanced by his predecessor John Paul II, will not only continue, but also develop further "in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue, based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognises the religious values that we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences".

Quoting Pope John Paul's call for "reciprocity" between cultures, the Pope also noted that it was a requirement of Christian and Muslim leaders to "guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence".

After the meeting, Iraqi ambassador, Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, told the press that he is ready to move on. "I pray to almighty God the crisis will be behind us," he told reporters.

Speaking to Reuters, Mario Scialoja, an adviser to the Italian section of the World Muslim League, said that the Holy Father offered a, "very good and warm speech".

"He recalled the differences but expressed his willingness to continue in a cordial and fruitful dialogue, said Scialoja, who added that he "had not been expecting another apology".

Former Cat Stevens says Pope should read Gandhi on Islam

Meanwhile, Associated Press reports that Catholic-born Muslim convert singer Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, used to believe that the Pope was infallible.

But now the singer, whose hits such as "Moon Shadow" and "Peace Train" made him a star in 1960s and 1970s, has told the BBC that the Pope's words proved that he was not.

The Pope should familiarise himself with more peaceful interpretation of Islam as contained in the writings of Indian leader Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, the singer said.

The Pope "should have looked elsewhere if he wanted to quote, but we respect the Pope and his position. I do believe he has retracted, in a way, that statement and that's all to the good," he said.

Since his conversion to Islam in 1977, the 58-year-old has become well known to Britons as a Muslim activist.

In 2004, Islam was barred from entering the United States, after US security officials said his name was on list of banned people.

Benedict tells Muslim leaders dialogue not an option, but a necessity (Catholic News Agency, 25/9/06)
Chasm growing between Catholics, Islam (Jerusalem Post, 25/9/06)
Yusuf Islam criticises Pope's comments (ABC Online News, 25/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Yusuf Islam (Official website)

Pope to meet Muslim ambassadors today (25/9/06)
No winners in Benedict polemic, says Melkite archbishop (CathNews, 22/9/06)
Sorry Benedict reiterates "deep respect" for Islam (CathNews, 21/9/06)
World leaders bid to hose down flames of Benedict controversy (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Australia's moderate Muslims a sign of hope, Pell says (CathNews, 19/9/06)
Benedict "deeply sorry" for Muslim outrage but violence continues (CathNews, 18/9/09)
Benedict tells priests to serve Christ and be His voice (CathNews, 15/9/06)
Religious violence contrary to God's nature, Pope says (CathNews, 14/9/06)
No chance of world without reason, says Benedict (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Benedict says learn Gospel from Africa and Asia (CathNews, 11/9/06)
Benedict heads home to Bavaria, Germany (CathNews, 8/9/06)

The value of reasoned conversation - Andrew Hamilton SJ (Eureka Street Extra 25/9/06)

26 Sep 2006