Pope’s Answer to Letter from 138 Muslim Religious Leaders

Source: FSSPX News


Last October 13, on the occasion of the end of the Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr), a group of 138 Muslim religious leaders had sent to Benedict XVI and the leaders of other Churches and Christian denominations an open letter entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You”, a quotation from a verse of the Koran addressed to “the people of the Book, Jews and Christians.” The letter explains that “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. (…) Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love (of God and neighbor, Ed.).”


Unabridged Text of the Answer

The pope answered in a letter dated November 19 and made public on November 29. The letter was signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, and addressed to Prince Ghazin bin Muhammad bin Talal, president of the Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought):

“On 13 October 2007 an open letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to other Christian leaders was signed by one hundred and thirty-eight Muslim religious leaders, including Your Royal Highness. You, in turn, were kind enough to present it to Bishop Salim Sayegh, Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in Jordan, with the request that it be forwarded to His Holiness.

 The Pope has asked me to convey his gratitude to Your Royal Highness and to all who signed the letter. He also wishes to express his deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world.

 Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions. We are all called to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will.

Mindful of the content of his Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), His Holiness was particularly impressed by the attention given in the letter to the twofold commandment to love God and one’s neighbour.

 As you may know, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stated: "I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values" (Address to Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation. The Pope is confident that, once this is achieved, it will be possible to cooperate in a productive way in the areas of culture and society, and for the promotion of justice and peace in society and throughout the world.

 With a view to encouraging your praiseworthy initiative, I am pleased to communicate that His Holiness would be most willing to receive Your Royal Highness and a restricted group of signatories of the open letter, chosen by you. At the same time, a working meeting could be organized between your delegation and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with the cooperation of some specialized Pontifical Institutes (such as the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University). The precise details of these meetings could be decided later, should this proposal prove acceptable to you in principle.

 I avail myself of the occasion to renew to Your Royal Highness the assurance of my highest consideration.”


Vatican Information Service specified: “In expressing his thanks and appreciation for this significant initiative by the eminent group of Muslim figures, the Holy Father reaffirms the importance of dialogue based on effective respect for the dignity of the person, on objective knowledge of the other’s religion, on the sharing of religious experience, and on joint commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance.”

 Roman observations on the exchange of letters

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, responded to questions in the October 18 edition of La Croix, following the publication of the letter from 138 Muslims : “It is a positive initiative, to the extent that the text proposes cooperation based on shared values : recognition of a unique God, the love of God for each person and the necessity of loving one’s neighbor. One aspect which struck me in particular was that perhaps for the first time, a document signed by Muslims presents the Jesus of the Gospels with quotes from the New Testament,  not based on quotations from the Koran.

 Moreover, this document was signed by both Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Basically, it poses the question to believers of both religions, : Is God Unique in my life?

In any event, this initiative clearly shows that with good will  and a respectful dialogue, we can succeed in overcoming prejudices. We have here an eloquent example of the ‘dialogue of spiritualities’. (…)

 “With some religions, yes, (one can have theological discussions). But with Islam, no, not for the moment. The Muslims do not accept that there could be discussions on the Koran, because it was written they claim, dictated by

God. With such an absolute interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the content of the faith…”.

In an interview given to the Italian daily Avvenire on November 30, the same cardinal stated : “Together with Islam we can certainly contribute to the safeguard of  certain values, such as the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the family and the promotion of peace”. “With the Muslims, we can appreciate the dimension of the transcendence of God, the value of prayer and fasting, the courage to bear witness to one’s own faith in public life… for their part, the Muslims can learn from us the value of a healthy secularism”.

 “The Catholic church, with the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humanae, has rediscovered the principle according to which no man may be forced to or prevented from practicing a religion. I hope that Islam also, rediscovers this principle in their deeds. “What is good for the believers of one religion, must also be good for the faithful of other religions. Thus, if it is just that the Muslims have a beautiful large Mosque in Rome, it is equally just and necessary, that Christians have the possibility to have their church in Riyadh”. “An Islam which preaches and practices terrorism, is not an authentic Islam but a perversion of Islam”.


On December 8, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, pointed out at the microphone of Vatican Radio,  that “the pope believes in dialogue, a sincere and loyal dialogue, naturally”. The response of the pope, published on November 29 recalls that differences should not be minimized” and  “above all, that which unites us” should be promoted. “There are also, amongst the Muslims sagacious speakers and  experts, who are aware of the great challenges facing humanity today and it is a positive thing that a capacity for common expression and a will to declare themselves explicitly in favor of peace is growing amongst them. This is the right direction. We must help each other and continue along this road”. (Sources : VIS / Vatican.va/La Croix/Apic/Imedia)

 Our observations

 What peace can interreligious dialogue, in the name of a claimed common faith in one God, achieve. Let us re-read Bishop Fellay’s letter to John-Paul II of October 28, 1999, on the occasion of the interreligious meeting in Rome, in which he condemns the “immense indifferentism” promoted by the meetings organized in the spirit of Assisi, as “the humanitarian, worldly and naturalistic themes of these meetings cause  the Church to fall from her wholly divine, eternal and supernatural mission to the level of Masonic ideas of a world peace, outside of the Unique Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ”.

 On the false idea that Catholics and Muslims have faith in the same unique God, we refer our readers to the study by Fr. François Knittel in the December 2007 edition of Christendom. This lucid study ends with the following lines : “To allow Catholics, not to mention all  those who are not Catholics, to believe that we all worship the same God, is an error contrary to reason and to the Catholic faith . It is a lack of charity towards those lost souls which maintains them in their error. It is a lack of charity towards Catholics who risk losing their Catholic faith”. “What can be done?” asks the author, and he replies with these words of St. Pius X : “But Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged… Whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.” (Our Apostolic Mandate” August 25 1910)

 See: “Do all religions have the same God?”, Christendom n° 108, Nov-Dec. 2007