Popes in the Middle East: Highlights of papal outreach in the region

.- Pope Francis is set to celebrate the first papal Mass on the Arabian peninsula next week during his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The pope’s Mass at the Zayed sports stadium on Feb. 5 is expected to draw at least 135,000 people. Many in attendance will be migrant workers from Asia residing in the UAE, a country in which 89 percent of the population are not citizens. It will not only be the first papal Mass on the peninsula, but the first public Mass in the country.

Since the Second Vatican Council there have been significant milestones in Muslim-Catholic relations in the region. Here is a look at some of the highlights:

First pope on a plane

The first time a pope ever traveled on a plane was on a trip to the Middle East. Saint Paul VI flew from Italy to Jordan in January 1964, making history as the first pope to leave Europe. Paul VI met with King Hussein in Amman before continuing his journey to Jerusalem.

First pope in a mosque

Saint John Paul II made history as the first pope to enter a mosque during his visit to Syria in May 2001. John Paul II went to Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque, which had been built in 715 on top of a fourth-century Christian cathedral said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

In March 2003, days before US President George W. Bush announced the official start of the Iraq war, St. John Paul II called for a worldwide fast for peace in the Middle East.

The Polish pontiff, known for his extensive papal travels during his 27-year pontificate, was also the first pope to visit several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY 

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UAE Muslims prepare warm welcome for Pope


20170921T1318-11715-CNS-POPE-MUSLIM_800-690x450‘This is without doubt a historic visit, as a Pope has never been to the Arab Peninsula before and until recently this was considered unthinkable’

Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, has said the Pope’s coming visit to United Arab Emirates next month is being warmly anticipated by Muslims as well as Christians.

Francis would be paying a visit to the “ very heart of Islam” so to speak, Hinder said in a long interview in the January issue of Alle Welt, the quarterly magazine of the Austrian branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies, or Missio.

The Pope’s visit to a mosque and the interreligious dimension of the visit could be compared to St Francis of Assisi’s visit to the Egyptian Sultan 800 years ago, Hinder said. “St Francis reached out to the Sultan across entrenched fronts at the time, which led to a friendly visit. I think Pope Francis is going to set a sign, namely that we must build bridges even if we do not believe in the same things”, he added. Such encounters and setting such signs were most important as far as the Muslim world was concerned, “as Muslims react very positively to them”.

“This is without doubt a historic visit, as a Pope has never been to the Arab Peninsula before and until recently this was considered unthinkable,” Hinder recalled. Francis was, moreover, coming in the year when the Catholic Church was celebrating the 800th anniversary of the meeting between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil at Damietta in Egypt in the year 1219.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TABLET (UK)

Interfaith dialogue really is relational, accessible

There is a particular urgency for Catholics to become participants in dialogue with Muslims

FINDING JESUS AMONG MUSLIMS: HOW LOVING ISLAM MAKES ME A BETTER CATHOLIC
By Jordan Denari Duffner
162 pages; Published by Liturgical Press
$19.95

Earlier this year while on a train in Europe, I sat down across from an Arabic-looking man who began reading the Quran. My immediate first reaction was apprehension and fear. My immediate second reaction was to check my implicit yet real bias for what it was, Islamophobia.

Most striking to me was this incident happened just a few days after I had finished a book on Muslim-Christian relations that addressed these implicit biases to which Catholics like myself are prone. It is precisely because these biases are so ingrained and because Islamophobia is on the rise that Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic by Jordan Denari Duffner is such an important and timely resource.

Written primarily for a Catholic audience, the book explores present relations between Christianity and Islam. It does so, however, through the lens of Duffner’s lived experiences with Muslims and the ways in which encountering Islam has helped her find Jesus anew. She never intends the book to be a comprehensive analysis or work of systematic theology. Rather, in her words, Finding Jesus Among Muslims should act as a “facilitator of dialogue.” The book raises more questions than it answers, encouraging readers to go forth and learn more. The author’s rich commitment to Muslims and demonstrated courage in entering vulnerable, liminal spaces inspire readers to become active participants in dialogue.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NCRONLINE.COM

CONSIDERING INTERFAITH RELATIONS BETWEEN JEWS, CHRISTIANS, AND MUSLIMS: AN INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK J. RYAN, S.J.

WHAT BINDS JEWS, CHRISTIANS, AND MUSLIMS TOGETHER IN A FAMILY OF FAITH AND FRIENDSHIP?

Rev. Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. considers this question in his wonderful new book, Amen: Jews, Fr_Patrick_Ryan_SMChristians, and Muslims Keep Faith with God (The Catholic University of America Press, October 2018).  Ryan takes a close theological look at Jews, Christians, and Muslims through their eyes, texts, and experiences.  He also shares his reflections on his own experience as a Christian in the company of Jewish and Muslim friends. Ryan writes that “we Muslims and Christians and Jews may live together more fruitfully and more peacefully if we recognize the polyvalence of Abraham, the polyvalence of great concepts like faith and revelation, community, and the path of righteousness.” Considering Interfaith Relations Between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: A

Ordained a Jesuit priest in 1968, Ryan is a graduate of Fordham University and Harvard University, where he studied with noted scholars Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Annemarie Schimmel. For nearly three decades, Ryan worked as an educator in West Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Ghana.  He is the author of Imale: Yoruba Participation in the Muslim Tradition: A Study of Clerical Piety (Scholars Press, 1978); The Coming of Our God: Scriptural Reflections for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany (Paulist, 1999), and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Scriptural Reflections for Lent (Paulist, 2004).

Joseph Richard Preville: How meaningful is the word “Amen” for Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Rev. Patrick J. Ryan: Jews, Christians, and Muslims all end prayers with the word “Amen,” even if there are small differences in pronunciation. To say “Amen” is to pledge one’s fidelity to God who keeps faith with us. Each of the first four sections of the Book of Psalms ends with an “Amen,” a pledge to God by the faithful children of Israel. Jesus prayed that way, but he also used “Amen” at the beginning of many of his most important sayings; in John’s Gospel that opening “Amen” is doubled. Paul notes that Jesus is our “Amen” to God: “It is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Cor 1:20). The most common prayer in the Islamic tradition, the first sura of the Qur’an, ends with an “Amin” in prayer that is not part of the Quranic text.  In saying “Amen” we Jews, Christians, and Muslims entrust ourselves to God, put our faith in God’s word spoken to us, keep faith with the God who first keeps faith with us.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD RELIGION NEWS 

 

Priest thanks Muslims for aiding flood victims at his church in Kerala

TOPSHOT-INDIA-WEATHER-FLOODAmid flooding which has displaced a million people, Muslims brought food, water and medicine to those sheltering in Fr Puthussery’s church

A Catholic priest in India spoke to a Muslim congregation on Friday to thank them for bringing food, water, and medicines for the more than 500 people who sought shelter in his church amid devastating flooding in Kerala in recent weeks.

Severe rains led to flash floods and landslides in Kerala in recent months, with some 400 people killed and more than 1 million displaced from their homes.

Press Trust of India reported that more than 580 people took refuge at Fr. Sanu Puthussery’s St. Antony’s parish in Achinakom, and the church soon ran out of food and water.

“I straightaway went to the Masjid, apprised the maulvi about our difficulty and requested his help. After the day’s prayers, Muslim brothers came to the church with a large quantity of food and water,” Fr. Puthussery told PTI.

“Pope Francis had said build bridges, not walls. The devastating floods has now given us an opportunity to destroy the walls and build the bridges of togetherness,” Fr. Puthussery told the 250 Muslims Aug. 31 at the Juma Masjid in Vechoor, about 15 miles northwest of Kottayam, during Friday prayers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC HERALD 

Muslim-Christian meeting in Taizé helps young people dialogue

taize

Young Muslims and Christians discuss their respective beliefs as they share a meal together at Taizé. (Photo by Guillaume Poli/Ciric)

 

Young Christians and Muslims from across France who participated in a three-day event at Taizé Ecumenical Community say they not only experienced dialogue for common good but also became aware of fundamental faith questions.

Filling three rows under a church marquee, participants addressed a series of tough questions from the organizers, including: Do you admire anything in each other’s religion? Has this diminished your commitment to your own religion?

Among those attending were Samia, a Muslim from Syria; Eglantine, Sylvain and Anne-Sophie, all French Catholics; Lydia, a German who was raised in a “strict” Protestant family; Marvin, a Muslim from Guinea; and Bart, a Pole who lives in the United Kingdom.

Their discussion began with a key question: How to engage in dialogue without renouncing the belief that one’s own religion leads to the Truth?

Each participant sought to answer to this delicate question, drawing on the comments by Auxiliary Bishop Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille, who is president of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Bishops Conference of France (CEF).

“If I claim to have the truth, it implies that I have had a good look around,” Bishop Aveline said. “Thus, I think that God enables me to discover the faith a little more deeply through others.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LACROIX INTERNATIONAL

Jordan’s Muslims and Christians unite to celebrate Virgin Mary

A13AMMAN – In a call for peace, love and harmony among religions, known as the Amman Message, Muslims and Christians came together to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation in Jordan.

Organised by the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media (CCSM), under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Prime Ministry Affairs Jamal Sarayreh, the March 25 event was hailed as a symbol of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

“This is the first event that joins Muslims and Christians together in celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation. It aims at reasserting the deep values of the brotherly relations between Muslims and Christians in Jordan, a country of peace and understanding,” said CCSM Director Father Rif’at Bader.

“The event represents a continuation of the Amman Message, the Common Word Initiative and the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It sends a clear message to the world that religion, with its values of love, can really contribute to peacemaking and stability, as well as to the restoration of cohesion and harmony.”

The Amman Message was released by Jordanian King Abdullah II in 2004 focusing on what “Islam is and what it is not” and “what actions represent Islam and what actions do not.” King Abdullah said its goal was to “clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ARAB WEEKLY