Muslims Greet New Pope, Eye Better Ties

Pope FrancisCAIRO – Muslims worldwide have congratulated Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio for being elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, voice hope for better relations with the Vatican under the new pontiff.

“We congratulate Pope Francis on his election by the College of Cardinals and offer the Muslim community’s support and cooperation in every positive effort he will undertake for peace, justice and the betterment of humanity,” Nihad Award, the National Executive Director of the umbrella Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement obtained by on Thursday, March 14.

Bergoglio was named a pope late Wednesday after four inconclusive votes, replacing Benedict XVI, who resigned last month for health reasons.

The new pontiff, 76, the first from South America, has taken the name Francis.

He will be officially installed as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church on March 19, the Vatican said.

Bergoglio’s election has broken Europe’s centuries-old grip on the papacy.

He is also the first to take the name Francis, in honor of the 12th-century Italian saint from Assisi who spurned wealth to pursue a life of poverty.


What Muslims want in a new pope

VATICAN-POPE-ISLAM-MEETING(RNS) Together, Islam and Catholicism represent about 40 percent of the world’s population, so the estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world have more than a passing interest in the new pope who will shepherd the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Too often, relations between the two groups have been shaped by conflict — the Christian Crusades of 1,000 years ago are still a raw wound for many Muslims, and more recently, Muslim extremist attacks on Christian communities across Africa and the Middle East have left the Vatican deeply concerned.

“What the pope says or doesn’t say can have enormous consequences on such relations,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative, an organization dedicated to improving Muslim-Western relations, and the founder of the controversial so-called Ground Zero mosque in New York.


What the Catholic Church can Learn from the Muslim Experience

Muslim-catholicHistorians may look back at the second decade of the 21st century and pinpoint the Arab Spring and the resignation ofPope Benedict VXI as two of the era’s most influential events. The former freed some countries in the Middle East from the ironclad grip of dictators and ushered in a new wave of Islamist governments; the latter presents the Catholic Church with a unique opportunity to rebrand itself (a majority of Catholics said in a recent CBS/New York Times poll that the church is “out of touch”) and embrace a more broadened approach.

Both are revolutionary events that represent a sea change in the way we view religion and politics, tradition and modernity. They can redefine what is possible in a world where rigid political and religious orthodoxy present increasing challenges. The election of a new pope and the rise of new Arab governments present an important occasion for cooperation and improved Muslim-Catholic relations. Both parties should jump at the chance to forge such a positive path.


French Muslim Leader on Papacy: ‘A New Beginning Is Necessary’

rdboubekeur3-wDalil Boubakeur is in his office at the Grand Mosque in Paris, where he has poured mint tea. The mosque is an imposing example of Muslim architecture, not far from the Seine, and was built in 1926 to recognize the colonial Muslim troops who had fought for France during World War I.

Boubakeur, who knows Latin and is as well-versed in the history of the Catholic Church as he is in the Koran, is an admirer of Germany, which he got to know after World War II. “I love its regions, its literature and its history,” Boubakeur says. He apologizes for his somewhat rusty German. “I don’t have much of an opportunity to speak it,” he said. “The last time was with Pope Benedict.”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your excellency, Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on February 28. What do you wish for from the future pontiff?

Boubakeur: A reversal. Christianity under Pope Benedict XVI started becoming more doctrinaire. He was not able to understand Muslims. He had no direct experience with Islam, and he found nothing positive to say about our beliefs.