I have been following the current controversy between Pope Benedict and certain voices in the Islamic world. I believe Benedict’s intent was to open a dialogue with the Islamic religion. He has cautioned against religious violence and has urged a union of faith with reason. He is attempting to bring reason and dialogue into a world filled with terrorism. At a meeting with Muslims in Germany last summer Benedict urged joint efforts to “turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinder progress toward world peace.”
One particular concern of the Pope is reciprocity. He urges Islamic states to grant the same rights and freedoms to Christians and other religious minorities that Muslims receive in the West. One example of this is that while Saudis contributed tens of millions of dollars to build Europe’s largest mosques in Rome, Christians cannot build churches in Saudi Arabia.
I find it deeply disturbing that the extremists are winning the day in our world. Where are the modern voices of moderation? Who is today’s Anwar Sadat or Yitzhak Rabin? The value of Benedict is that he is appealing for dialogue between faiths. In an atmosphere of interreligious dialogue people meet in confidence and trust, share their spiritual gifts, maintain their faith and practice, and open themselves to grace and truth. This is what Pope Benedict is trying to do. Let us pray that he is successful.
Fr. Bob Hawkins, September 24, 2006