The announcement this morning by the Holy See that there will be a summit meeting in Rome in November between the Holy Father and Muslim leaders is indeed a significant event. In keeping with the theme of developing peace and harmony, the invitation of the Holy Father to extend an invitation towards dialogue and understanding with our Islamic cousins in monotheism indicates clearly the need for permanent Catholic-Islamic discussions.

Throughout his papacy, Benedict XVI has spoken very openly about the need to develop a conscious understanding of our relationship with Islam. Most keenly, his academic discourse in Germany was widely misinterpreted by the Islamic world as containing anti-Islamic remarks. There really is nothing further from the truth than this misunderstanding of the Pope’s speech. Benedict XVI is clearly and openly calling for the establishment of a new spirit of open dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Islamic faith. The fact that the Holy Father continues to meet and establish relationships with Islamic leaders indicates the true importance this matter holds in the papal mission and ministry.

The Catholic Church in Islamic countries is increasingly under persecution and is experiencing massive migrations of Catholics from their native lands. This is partially because of the western perception that Islam advocates extremist policies of violence in order to spread the message of the Koran. The militant spread of Islam is an extremist view of this religious movement, and frankly still reflects the period of hostilities between the Church and Islam during the Crusades. Clearly, the purpose of the Holy Fathers diplomatic and pastoral approach to the understanding of Islam is not based on Catholic expansionism or religious extremism. Rather the critical understanding of our Islamic cousins is wholly necessary for a peaceful coexistence between the theologies of both eastern and western religions. In relationship to the Catholic presence in the geographical regions of Islam, all religions should be able to develop a relationship that reflects our mutual love of God and our neighbors.

Some Islamic observers suggest that the Pope’s speech delivered in Germany is still a point of contention for faithful Moslems. Both sides need to relinquish this event and look for new avenues of religious and social understanding that puts the historical and emotional past behind all of us. The Koran and the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) offer a large treasury of faithful depository knowledge for all religious groups to contemplate and study. The common points we share in our Sacred writings, our monotheistic roots in one God, and the common importance given to Mary are first steps necessary to stimulate our mutual discussions. In the same manner, all faiths especially Christianity and Islam should make every effort to eliminate religious animosity between each other and work towards a new age of theological harmony. The upcoming summit in Rome indeed provides the opportunity for all faithful believers, Christian and Islamic to forge a new alliance between their faiths.

On the larger scene, the fact of impending discussion and dialogue marks the importance to end religious extremism on the part of all religions. Islamic sects do not need to resort to kidnapping and terrorism in order to make their beliefs known. The law of love rather than retaliation as well should motivate Christians. Hostages such as the Chaldean archbishop should be freed and all hostilities need to cease. Behavior that invokes social and religious sectarian violence is not in accordance to either Islamic or Christian principles.

Benedict XVI is offering the Catholic Church the opportunity to correct mistakes from our historical past that caused social and political suffering in our relationship with Islam. In the spirit of the radical conversion called for by both the Koran and the Gospels…the time is NOW to effectively practice the teachings of both religions.

Hugh McNichol writes a daily column on Catholic religious matters. He writes daily @ http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.blogspot.com

Comments are always welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

Be Sociable, Share!