Islam: Muslim thinkers praise Pope's 'advanced' views on dialogue

Rome, 31 July (AKI) - Pope Benedict XVI has played a key role in helping Muslims and Christians start to find common ground on issues ranging from poverty to pollution, according to a top Muslim intellectual.

"After years of attempted dialogue, Islam and Christianity have begun to find consensus on subjects of shared interest," the president of Italy's Association of Muslim Intellectuals Ahmad Vincenzo said in an interview with the Catholic daily Liberal.

"These topics range from the family to pollution, poverty, and the distribution of natural resources," he said.

Vincenzo praised Benedict's statements on religious dialogue.

"We have noted that the pontiff holds more advanced views on this subject than most of society and we would like public broadcasters to devote more air time to inter-religious dialogue," he noted.

"This would help counter prejudiced notions that Islam is a violent religion to be discriminated against."

Inter-faith dialogue could become the shared language of the world's two biggest faiths and a tool to influence governments and decision-makers, " added Vincenzo, who teaches Islamic law at the University of Naples Federico II.

The Pope last year received King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in a groundbreaking meeting and will host a landmark 'Catholic-Muslim Forum' in early November, aimed at improving ties between the two faiths.

Catholic-Muslim relations soured after a 2006 speech in Germany in which Benedict XVI quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor's criticism of Islam, linking it to violence.

Following Muslim fury over the speech and worldwide protests, last October, 138 top Muslim scholars from 43 countries launched an appeal to the Pope for greater theological dialogue. Their letter warned that global security was at risk if Muslims and Christians could not make peace.

The letter by Muslim leaders was widely viewed as a breakthrough in Muslim-Christian relations.

It was sent to the pontiff under the auspices of an Amman-based non-governmental organisation headed by Prince Ghazi, the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

The Pope replied expressing his "deep appreciation" for the letter.

At the Pope's invitation, a delegation of Muslims leaders in March met Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran - the top Vatican official in charge of relations with Islam - and a delegation representing the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in Rome to plan the November conference.


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