9/11 Provided Difficult Test For Vatican-Muslim Relations

By Francis X. Rocca, Religion News Service, Huffington Post

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A few weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pope John Paul II invited Muslim leaders to an interfaith prayer summit in Assisi, Italy, the site of a dramatic interfaith peace gathering he had hosted 15 years earlier.

In the shadow of 9/11, John Paul said, the world needed to hear from Muslims and Christians that “religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence.”

Catholic-Muslim dialogue took on a new intensity and sense of urgency. And then came the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, in 2006.

Speaking in his native Germany on Sept. 12, 2006, John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was delivering a scholarly address on the Western tradition of faith and reason. He quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor who described the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhumane” and “spread by the sword.”

One could almost hear Catholic-Muslim dialogue come to a screeching halt.

The statement sparked Muslim protests worldwide, some of them violent, including the burning of churches and the murder of a nun. Turkey’s top Muslim cleric said the speech revealed “the hatred in (Benedict’s) heart.”

The speech, and the reaction to it, revealed deep tensions between the world’s two largest religions, and complicated the delicate task of building understanding on both sides.

Benedict later acknowledged Muslims’ “understandable indignation” at the quotation, but insisted that he had not meant to endorse the offending words, nor to show disrespect to the Quran, which he described as the “holy book of a great religion.”

After an exchange of high-profile letters, Benedict convened an unprecedented three-day Vatican summit in Nov. 2008, but participants say the problem of religiously inspired violence continues to haunt the dialogue process.

What’s more, they say, geopolitics has only made things more difficult. read more

Categories: CHRISTIANITY, Islam

1 reply

  1. For a Muslim perspective of the relations with the Vatican see:



    On October 13th 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address of September 13th 2006, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. In their Open Letter to the Pope (see english.pdf), for the first time in recent history, Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam spoke with one voice about the true teachings of Islam.

    Exactly one year after that letter, on October 13th 2007 Muslims expanded their message. In A Common Word Between Us and You, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals have unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the Prophet r to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam. Like the Open Letter, the signatories to this message come from every denomination and school of thought in Islam. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in this message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches, and indeed to all Christians everywhere

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