Rome, 29 November (ENI)–Pope Benedict XVI has responded to a letter sent to him and other Christian leaders by 138 Muslim scholars, by inviting a group of its signatories to meet him and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The response came in a letter from the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan, president of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman and a prime mover of the Muslim letter.
‘The Pope … wishes to express his deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world,’ Bertone wrote in the letter released on 29 November.
The Muslim document made public on 11 October was addressed to world Christian leaders. It compared passages in the Quran and the Bible, and identified the principles of accepting only one god and living in peace with one’s neighbours as common ground between the two religions.
In the Vatican’s response, Bertone stated, ‘Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us: namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions. We are all called to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will.’
The Catholic News Service reported on 29 November that Aref Ali Nayed, a signatory to the Muslim letter, said he had no doubt the papal invitation would be accepted.
‘There is a theological and moral principle in Islam that according to the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, when you are invited to something you should go,’ Nayed said. ‘It should not be a photo opportunity, but a real discussion with the Pope and our scholars,’ he said. ‘The scholars that signed the letter are theologians and jurists; they see the Pope not just as the leader of 1 billion Catholics, but as a scholar in his own right.’
The letter from the 138 Muslim scholars marked the first anniversary of another open letter from Islamic academics to Pope Benedict. That missive was issued after the pontiff made a speech in Germany in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who had linked Islam and violence.
(c) Ecumenical News International