Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Real Dialogue?

Octave of St. Stephen Protomartyr, Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors

Sandro Magister has out a piece on a planned meeting between the Holy Father and 138 prominent Muslims led by a prince of Jordan that follows an exchange of letters last year. I'm not going to quote all of this at all, just one part. Bolding is my own.

The letter from cardinal Bertone, dated November 19 and made public about ten days later, proposes three main topics of discussion: "effective respect of the dignity of every human person"; "objective awareness of the other's religion"; "'a common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation."

In commenting on Bertone's letter, the Egyptian Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir – who is one of the scholars of Islam most closely heeded by the pope, together with another Jesuit, Christian W. Troll, of Germany – emphasized that the letter of the 138 is not clear on the first of these topics, and that instead some of its signatories say that they are not at all interested in talking about freedom of conscience, about equality between men and women and between believers and nonbelievers, about the distinction between religious and political power – in short, about the achievements of the Enlightenment that the Catholic Church has made its own, but that Islam is still far from accepting.

For its part, the letter from the prince of Jordan to cardinal Bertone, dated December 12 and likewise made public about ten days later, insists that the Catholic-Muslim dialogue be primarily "theological" and "spiritual," and that it have as its object – more than aspects defined as "extrinsic," like the commandments of the natural law, religious liberty, and equality between men and women – the "Common Word between Us and You" which is at the center of the letter of the 138, or the unicity of God and the twofold commandment of love of God and neighbor.

Benedict XVI wants to talk about the Enlightenment perhaps, but as I read this, I see he wants to talk about concrete steps that will help real people, women, non-Muslims living in Muslim lands, etc. The prince of Jordan has in mind theological discussion along the lines of, as I read it, 'You're okay, we're okay, we believe in the same God with two different traditions, have a nice day'. Something that validates the idea that there is just one big Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

Benedict XVI has definite ideas about religious dialogue and something like that isn't on his agenda, period. I look forward to seeing how they solve this and come up with meaningful points to discuss this spring.

Also of interest:
Spengler's thoughts on post-Muslims
Spengler's thoughts on "presentable" Islamists

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