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« on: March 29, 2008, 03:21:31 PM »

I've been debating how to do this, when the headline told me. DW

World Council of Churches backs dialogue with Islam
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
updated 8:07 a.m. MT, Wed., March. 26, 2008

PARIS - The World Council of Churches, which groups the main non-Catholic Christian churches, urged its members on Wednesday to open a dialogue with Muslim scholars seeking inter-faith cooperation to promote justice and peace.

The Geneva-based WCC said it wanted to organize discussions on theology and ethics with signatories of A Common Word, a call for Christian-Muslim dialogue issued by 138 Islamic scholars last October and welcomed by many Christian churches.

The WCC statement came a day after Saudi media reported that King Abdullah had called for a Muslim consensus on a dialogue with Christianity and Judaism to end inter-faith tension.

The Vatican has begun talks with leaders of the Common Word, an unprecedented initiative by scholars of several Muslim traditions, but the Easter baptism of an Italian Muslim by Pope Benedict has put a damper on their initial upbeat mood.

"We are encouraging our churches to consider this invitation offered by the Muslim leaders as a new opportunity for inter-religious dialogue," WCC General Secretary Rev Samuel Kobia said in a statement on the Common Word appeal.

The WCC groups over 560 million Christians in 349 churches around the world, including most Orthodox churches, Protestant denominations and many independent groups.

It said it issued its response to A Common Word after consulting member churches, several of which have already responded to the Muslim appeal and planned meetings.


"This invitation marks an encouraging new stage in Muslim thinking about relations between Muslims and Christians," the WCC statement said. "Throughout their shared history, followers of the two faiths have too often misunderstood each other."

The two faiths had several irreconcilable differences, it said: "Not the least of these will be the Christian difficulty of appreciating Mohammad as a prophet and the Muslim difficulty of appreciating Jesus as God incarnate."

"Both Christians and Muslims must work hard to develop respect where understanding is difficult and trust where differences do not yield to inquiry," it added.

While King Abdullah's call for dialogue seemed separate from the Common Word initiative, both reflected concern among Muslim and Christian thinkers to avoid a "clash of civilizations" as globalization multiplies contacts between the West and Islam.

Aref Ali Nayed, a leading Common Word signatory, criticized the baptism of Egyptian-born Italian journalist Magdi Allam as "a triumphalist tool for scoring points" but the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano said it was not "a hostile act."

While relations with the Vatican are temporarily strained, the Common Word group also plans meetings over the next year with Anglicans, U.S. Protestants and Orthodox Christians in its effort to foster inter-faith understanding.

Another inter-faith effort, the Islam and the West project of the World Economic Forum, published a report on Wednesday saying that fewer than 30 percent of Muslims and Christians polled thought the other faith was interested in better understanding.

World Council of Churches backs dialogue with Islam

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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2008, 03:22:31 PM »

Muslim scholars gather at Vatican
Meeting with pope could follow; cardinal hopes for 'historic' breakthrough
The Associated Press
updated 11:08 a.m. MT, Tues., March. 4, 2008

VATICAN CITY - Muslim scholars who have called for greater dialogue with Christians began two days of talks Tuesday with the Vatican to prepare for what church officials say will be a historic audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The group includes representatives of 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals who wrote to Benedict and other Christian leaders last year urging Christians and Muslims to develop their common ground of belief in one God.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, is hosting the representatives to lay the groundwork for a papal audience expected sometime later this year, Vatican officials said Tuesday. No date had been set.

Tauran himself has said the planned papal audience, which Benedict proposed as part of his official response to the Muslims' letter, could start a "historic" dialogue between the faiths.

The Vatican has welcomed the Muslim letter as an encouraging sign, eager to improve relations with moderate Islam ever since Benedict angered many in the Muslim world with a 2006 speech about Islam and violence.

In the speech, Benedict cited a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The pope later said he was "deeply sorry" over the reaction to his remarks and said they did not reflect his own opinions.

In the letter to Benedict and other Christian leaders, the Muslim scholars, muftis and intellectuals drew parallels between Islam and Christianity and their common focus on love for God and love for one's neighbor. They also noted that such a focus is found in Judaism.

"As Muslims and in obedience to the Holy Quran, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions," the letter said. "Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us."

Noting that Christians and Muslims make up an estimated 55 percent of the world population, the scholars concluded that improving relations is the best way to bring peace to the world.

Muslim scholars, Vatican officials talk

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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2008, 03:47:11 PM »

Vatican, Saudis discuss a church

March 29, 2008

By John Phillips - ROME The Vatican is negotiating with authorities in Saudi Arabia for permission to build the country's first Roman Catholic church, sources in the Holy See said yesterday.

The move evidently heralds a major policy change toward the nearly 1 million Christians working in the unbendingly conservative Wahhabi kingdom.

Riyadh and the Holy See have been holding discreet discussions on the sensitive issue for several weeks and the two sides are "locked together," said Archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, the papal nuncio, or Vatican ambassador, to the Persian Gulf states of Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

A source in the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue confirmed the talks.

Saudi Arabia has not allowed members of non-Muslim faiths to practice their religions, even in private. The last Catholic priest discovered ministering clandestinely in the kingdom reportedly was expelled in 1985. Authorities justified the ban on churches on the ground of King Abdullah's hallowed official role as custodian of two of the most sacred sites of Islam, at Mecca and Medina.

The newspaper La Stampa of Turin quoted the nuncio as saying the breakthrough was the result of an unprecedented meeting in the Vatican in November between Pope Benedict XVI and King Abdullah.

In another surprising development, the king on Monday made an impassioned plea for dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Vatican sources said the negotiations for a church to be built are based on the principle of reciprocity. Rome, the cradle of Catholicism, also is home to the largest mosque in Europe, built with Saudi money and opened in 1995.

Earlier this month, in what Vatican watchers see as a precedent for change in Saudi Arabia, the first church ever was inaugurated in Doha, the sand-swept capital of Qatar. Most of the 150,000 Christians in Qatar are from the Philippines and India, as are the 900,000 Christians thought to be working in Saudi Arabia.

The small Doha church, Our Lady of the Rosary, is discreet with no crosses or bell towers on the exterior. Mass is celebrated there in 14 languages.

Benedict has long been concerned about the plight of Christian minorities in the Muslim world and spoke of his sadness about the kidnapping and death earlier this month of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, Monsignor Paolos Faraj Rahho.

The pope is expected to raise the question of the plight of the beleaguered Christians in the Middle East when he meets with President Bush during his U.S. visit next month. The issue is likely to be mentioned as well in a speech that the pontiff will give at the United Nations in New York, Vatican sources said.

Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia have risked arrest, deportation and prison if discovered observing non-Muslim religions, even celebrating Christmas, but are required to respect the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Some Filipinos in Riyadh were arrested recently for possessing and distributing the Bible, according to Amnesty International, and police on a daily basis search the homes of Christians, who are not allowed to wear crosses or other symbols of their faith.

Vatican, Saudis discuss a church

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