While Pope Benedict XVI will continue to show the world that he tried by having more interfaith talks, it appears that he knows that nothing will result from them. He sees that these conferences are full of empty talk by Muslims, as nothing actually gets any better for the Christians and Jews living in Islamic countries.
Pope Questions Interfaith Dialogue
By RACHEL DONADIO
Published: November 23, 2008
ROME — In comments that could have broad implications in a period of intense inter-religious conflict, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.
The pope’s comments were from a letter he wrote to Marcello Pera, an Italian center-right politician and scholar whose forthcoming book, “Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian,” argues that Europe should stay true to its liberal, Christian roots. A central theme of Benedict’s papacy has been to focus attention on the Christian roots of an increasingly secular Europe.
In comments from the letter that appeared on Sunday in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily, the pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, he added, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”
But Benedict added that “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” was important. He called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”
The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s comments seemed intended to draw interest for Mr. Pera’s book, not to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing inter-religious dialogues.
“He has a papacy known for religious dialogue, he went to a mosque, he’s been to synagogues,” Rev. Lombardi said. “This means that he thinks we can meet and talk to the others and have a positive relationship.”
Instead, the pope’s remarks seemed aimed at pushing some more theoretical inter-religious conversations into the practical realm.
“He’s trying to get the Catholic-Islamic dialogue out of the clouds of theory and down to brass tacks: how can we know the truth about how we ought to live together justly, despite basic credal differences?” said George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II.
This month, the Vatican hosted a conference with Muslim religious leaders and scholars aimed at improving ties that had been strained in 2006, when some Muslims were offended when the pope quoted a Byzantine emperor criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.
The conference participants agreed to condemn terrorism and protect religious freedom, but they did not address issues of conversion and of the rights of Christians to worship in majority Muslim countries.
The Church is also engaged in dialogue with Muslims organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, a country where non-Muslims are forbidden from worshipping in public.
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