Papal Turkey visit inspires ACU's inter-religious initiative

Representatives of a new inter-religious dialogue centre at the Australian Catholic University has stressed the role of Pope Benedict as an apostle of dialogue and peace in a first visit for the centre to the Muslim-founded Australian Intercultural Society.

The ACU National delegation met with the Australian Intercultural Society, established in 2000 to promote and foster harmonious relations between faith communities in Australian society, at the Society's headquarters at Moonee Ponds, Victoria.

An ACU National statement says that the university's team, led by Professor Raymond Canning, Director of the University's Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue, included theologian Professor Neil Ormerod and Dr Stewart Sharlow.

Melbourne Bishop Christopher Prowse and Reverend Dr John Dupuche, Chair of Melbourne's Catholic Interfaith Committee, accompanied the delegation.

In a statement for ACU National, Professor Canning expressed appreciation for the university's close relationship with the intercultural organisation founded by a group of second generation Australian Muslims.

Admiration was recorded for the life and work of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen whose teaching stresses good deeds and service to humanity.

ACU National's statement also stressed the symbolic importance of Pope Benedict's gestures during his recent visit to Turkey.

The Pope saw himself as "a guest (who had come) as a friend and as an apostle of dialogue and peace", according to ACU National, promoting dialogue and fraternal respect as marking a most positive way forward in the relationship between Muslims and Christians.

Comparing ACU National's visit to the Society with the Pope's visit to Turkey, the statement says that dialogue between Christians and Muslims is not an optional extra but a vital necessity.

In the spirit of peace that characterises the Christian faith, the delegates offered to their Muslim hosts a gift of calligraphy illustrating the title of God as "the Peacemaker", and prayed that, in closeness to the one God, Muslims and Christians might aspire and strive to be blessed peacemakers for the common good of Australian society and for the sake of the world.

ACU National delegation visits Intercultural Society (ACU, Media Release, 7/12/06)

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8 Dec 2006