September 22, 2009.
Two years ago Benedict XVI gave Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran the difficult task of improving relations with the Muslims.
The Cardinal went on to preside over last year’s meeting between the Vatican and members of the main forum of dialogue between Christians and Muslims called “A common word.” He also accompanied the pope to the mosque in Amman, Jordan, and a few days later to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
They were gestures that offered signs the relations between Catholics and Muslims had improved.Card. Jean Louis Tauran
President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue“There has been progress, especially after the pope’s trip to the Holy Land. The Muslim intellectual elite now has a better perception of Catholicism. Of course, now we have to make sure that this progress is seen in the people. There is much to be done.”
One of the initiatives meant to reach all Muslims, and not just intellectuals is the message that the Vatican sends each year at the end of Ramadan. This year the message carried the theme “Christians and Muslims: together in overcoming poverty.”Card. Jean Louis Tauran
President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue“Poverty, ignorance and illness are too often a source of violence and fundamentalism. That’s why we thought it would be important to highlight this theme.”
This year’s message is meant to address the solidarity and the responsibility of Christians and Muslims to build a better world. It also suggests a universal code of ethics among both parties that defends the human dignity of every person. Card. Jean Louis Tauran
President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue“I think we could find common agreement with Muslims in the realm of natural rights. It’s an important theme, and I don’t think it’s ever been dealt with before: also inter-religious dialogue and natural rights.”
The cardinal says there are many values shared by both sides, like respect for life, dignity of the family and compassion.
But dialogue with Islam isn’t reserved only for countries with a Muslim majority. In recent years immigration of Muslims to the west has increased. The Cardinal suggests that the foundations of inter-religious dialogue need to start early in schools.Card. Jean Louis Tauran
President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue“It’s important that other religions are talked about with respect and objectivity instead of presenting them in a mocking manner or highlighting the negative aspects. I think inter-religious dialogue is based on respect.”
As part of this process of normalization of relations, the cardinal continues to meet with representatives of the Islamic world. In November he’ll travel to Indonesia, the country with the most Muslims in the world, and in February he’ll visit Al Azar University in Egypt, one of the most important theological centers in the Islamic world.