Monday, May 15, 2006

Islam the Pope & Religious Freedom

From Directions to Orthodoxy

Pope challenges Islam on religious freedom
Posted on Sun May 14 2006:

May. 15 ( - The Catholic Church is committed to inter-religious dialogue, Pope Benedict XVI said on May 15. But in a clear challenge to Islamic leaders the Pope insisted that dialogue must be based on "reciprocity" and mutual respect.

Speaking to the members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, who are gathered in Rome this week for their plenary meeting, the Holy Father said that the Church has "a growing awareness that inter-religious dialogue is part of her commitment to serve mankind in the modern world."

In discussions with other faiths, the faithful "are not renouncing" their commitment to spread the Gospel, which is an intrinsic aspect of the Christian identity, the Pope said. Rather, they are hoping to build up "relations of mutual knowledge and respect," which can overcome animosity. This effort is particularly important, he added, in an era of unprecedented migration, when believers of different faiths find themselves living in unfamiliar cultures.

"Christians must open their hearts especially to the poorest and neediest," the Pope said. He observed pointedly, "Obviously, we would hope that Christians who emigrate to countries with Muslim majorities will find a welcome there, and respect for their religious identity."

Pope Benedict thanked the Pontifical Council for Migrants for its work on "a significant frontier for the new evangelization in today's world." The focus of this year's 3-day plenary session for the dicastery is the challenge facing Christians who travel to, or live in, predominantly Islamic countries. Vatican officials suggest that the theme was chosen after consultation with Pope Benedict, who has frequently expressed concern for the status of religious freedom in Muslim countries.

On March 23, when he called the College of Cardinals together for a day of reflection, the Pope asked for the prelates' thoughts particularly on relations with Islam. Benedict XVI has made specific appeals to Muslim leaders to respect the rights of Christians: in a March plea to Afghanistan's President Abdul Rahman, on behalf of a Christian facing death for "apostasy" from Islam, and in a February meeting with the ambassador from Morocco to the Holy See. Last August, when he met with Muslim leaders in Cologne during his trip to that city for World Youth Day, the Pope stressed the importance of mutual respect as an essential ingredient of inter-religious dialogue.

This week's meeting of the Pontifical Council for Migrants is being chaired by Cardinal Renato Martino. In March the Italian prelate-- who was already serving as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was named "for the moment" to head the Council for Migrants as well. Vatican-watchers continue to speculate that the Pontiff may include the dicastery in larger plans for an overhaul of the Roman Curia.

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