Rome steps up interfaith dialogue gestures

As the Holy See releases its first document in Arabic, Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has written to Muslims saying that Christians and Muslims must be an example to the world of authentic dialogue.

In his first message to Muslims in his new role as President of the Council, Cardinal Poupard was extending greetings to mark the end of the Islamic Ramadan period of fasting.

"It is good to be able to share this significant moment with you in the context of our ongoing dialogue," Cardinal Poupard said, noting that while "arduous", the path of "authentic dialogue ... is more necessary than ever".

Referring to violence that has seen "so many human lives destroyed, so many women widowed, so many children who have lost a parent, so many children orphaned", Cardinal Poupard asked: "As Christian and Muslim believers, are we not the first to be called to offer our specific contribution to resolve this serious situation and these complex problems?"

The Cardinal says "without doubt" the credibility of religion is at stake.

"If we do not play our part as believers, many will question the usefulness of religion and the integrity of all men and women who bow down before God," he said.

"Our two religions give great importance to love, compassion and solidarity," he added.

"In those places where we can work together, let us not labour separately," Cardinal Poupard wrote. "The world has need, and so do we, of Christians and Muslims who respect and value each other and bear witness to their mutual love and co-operation to the glory of God and the good of all humanity.

Archbishop Philip Wilson welcomed the statement on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops.

"I welcome this statement and express on behalf of the Bishops of Australia our best wishes to the Islamic Community and our solidarity with them in seeking to serve the one true God," he said.

However, in remarks published by the British Catholic Herald, outspoken Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien was more sanguine.

The Edinburgh cardinal called for Muslims to apologise for the 9/11 and London 7/7 bomb attacks, declaring that the public should not have to live "in fear of attack" from believers of the Islamic faith.

In a controversial move, the Cardinal claimed that since the Pope has apologised for the offence caused last month by his Regensburg remarks on the Islamic faith, so Muslims should now step up and say sorry for the attacks carried out in the name of their faith.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "There have been no apologies for the shooting of the nun [in Somalia after the Pope made his remarks], let alone for 9/11 or the London bombings. I would like to see some reciprocal moves from the Islamic side. We shouldn't have to live in fear of attack from Muslims."

Meanwhile, a day after the publication of Cardinal Poupard's speech on its website, the Vatican for the first time released a document in Arabic, publishing a speech on Saturday of the Vatican United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation representative which addresses scientific and ethical issues.

In the text, released in Arabic and in French, Msgr Francesco Follo emphasised the urgent need for an international declaration on scientific ethics.

There is a need for "a more precise reflection on universal needs of respect for man" Msgr Follo says, emphasising that "the crisis of the ethical measure is to be found at the source, in the supposed philosophy and anthropology rarely set out in ethical debate".

In fact, he says, "only a basic ethical philosophy will lead us to setting out what effectively makes matters human for humanity and, in consequence, something that scientists cannot do".

Letter from Cardinal Paul Poupard
Letter from Archbishop Philip Wilson (Media Release, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 20/10/06)
O'Brien urges Muslims to say sorry for 9/11 (Scotland on Sunday, 22/10/06)
Vatican releases document in Arabic (Independent On Line, South Africa, 21/10/06)
Vatican in appeal in Arabic to UNESCO against ethical relativism (AGI, 21/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for inter-religious dialogue
Cardinal Keith O'Brien website
Catholic Herald website

Columbans call on Christians to fast and pray this weekend (CathNews, 22/9/06)
Assisi to revive John Paul II's inter-faith "dream of peace" (CathNews, 5/9/06)
Roman Curia restructured (CathNews, 13/3/06)
Culture Cardinal lays down challenge facing a "collapsing" society (CathNews, 18/1/05)

23 Oct 2006