Dialogue requires sincerity, respect, pope tells Christian, Muslim leaders

Pope Francis speaks May 4, 2023, at the Vatican, to Catholic and Muslim leaders who were meeting in Rome for a colloquium between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, which is based in Amman, Jordan. Looking on, in the background, is Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who founded the institute, and, in the foreground, Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

nterreligious dialogue requires sincerity and mutual respect to be fruitful, Pope Francis told Christian and Muslim leaders.

It also requires “the awareness of both convergences and divergences” between different faiths, he said, but with emphasis on “what unites us on a religious and spiritual level as well as on an ethical-moral level.”

The pope met May 4 with Catholic and Muslim leaders gathered in Rome for the sixth colloquium between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, which is based in Amman, Jordan.

Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal founded the institute in 1994 to promote “common human and ethical values that contribute to strengthening cooperation and interfaith relations” and to rectify misconceptions about others, according to the institute’s website.

In his remarks to those attending the colloquium, Francis praised the “enlightened leadership” of the prince and the institute’s work regarding “the preservation and enhancement of the Arab Christian heritage.”

“I can but express further gratitude, because this not only benefits the Christian citizens of yesterday and today, but also protects and consolidates this heritage throughout the Middle East, so diverse and rich in ethnicities, religions, cultures, languages and traditions,” he said.

“It is indeed a matter of jealously preserving each piece of this beautiful mosaic,” which would benefit from closely cooperating with other Christian institutes that have the same goal, he added.

Francis also expressed his “appreciation and gratitude” to the prince’s uncle, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, “for his attention to the Christian communities not only in his country, but also those of the Middle East, especially in times marked by conflicts and violence.”

“His majesty does not tire of repeating that the Christians of those blessed lands are natives, meaning they live where their ancestors lived for long centuries,” the pope said.

The pope also told his guests that he has been updated about “the tragedy in Turkey and northern Syria,” which had been hit by two devastating earthquakes Feb. 6, killing more than 59,000 people and causing tens of billions of dollars in direct physical damage.


Expanding outreach to Islam, Vatican establishes diplomatic ties with Oman

ROME – In yet another sign of Pope Francis’s consistent outreach to Islam, the Vatican announced Thursday that it had established full diplomatic relations with Oman, further extending the Holy See’s relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds.

In a joint statement published Feb. 23, both sides said the move was born of a desire to promote “mutual understanding and further strengthening friendship and cooperation,” and voiced confidence that the decision serves the interests of both nations.

They said that a Vatican apostolic nunciature in Oman and an Omani embassy to the Holy See would soon be established, and envoys named to fill the new posts.

With Thursday’s announcement, the Holy See now enjoys diplomatic relations with every country on the Arabian Peninsula apart from Saudi Arabia. In total, the Vatican now has diplomatic relations with 184 of the 195 nations recognized by the UN, which includes 193 member states and two observers, the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Beyond Saudi Arabia, the nations with which the Vatican does not yet have full diplomatic relations include China, North Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Oman, a Sultanate, is bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, as well as the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

Pope Francis has made outreach to the Arabian Peninsula a priority, having visited the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and the Kingdom of Bahrain last November. In both places, he participated in high-level interfaith meetings aimed at promoting dialogue among religions.


Dialogue is ‘the oxygen of peace’

The Holy Father recalls his visit to Bahrain

At the General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning, 9 November, Pope Francis reflected on his recent Apostolic Journey to Bahrain, pointing to three keywords that sum up his experience: dialogue, encounter and journey. The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the people of Cyprus after the passing of His Beatitude Chrysostomos II and renewed his invitation to pray for martyred Ukraine. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words which he shared in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning!

Before I begin to speak about what I have prepared, I would like to draw attention to these two children who came up here. They did not ask permission. They did not say, “I am afraid”. They came up directly. This is how we have to be with God: direct. They have given us an example of how we should behave with God, with the Lord: go ahead! He is always waiting for us. It was good for me to see the trust of these two children. It was an example for all of us. This is how we should always draw near the Lord — freely. Thank you.

Three days ago, I returned from my trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain which I truly did not know. I did not really know what that kingdom was like. I would like to thank everyone who accompanied this visit through the support of their prayers, and to renew my gratitude to His Majesty the King, the other Authorities, the local Church and the people, for their warm welcome. And I would also like to thank those who organize these journeys. To make this trip happen, it takes a bustle of people. The Secretariat of State works a lot to prepare the discourses, to prepare the logistics, everything, there is a lot of activity… then the translators… and then, the Gendarmerie Corps, the Swiss Guards Corps, who are wonderful. It is a tremendous amount of work! To everyone, to all of you, I would like to thank you publicly for all that you do to ensure that the Pope’s journeys go well. Thank you.

It is natural to wonder why the Pope wanted to visit this small country with such a large Islamic majority. There are so many Christian countries — why not go to one of them first? I would like to respond through three words: dialogue, encounter and journey.

Dialogue: the opportunity for the long-desired Journey was afforded by the invitation of the King to a Forum on dialogue between the East and the West, a dialogue that seeks to discover the richness that other peoples, traditions and beliefs possess. Bahrain, an archipelago formed by many islands, helped us understand that one must not live in isolation, but by drawing closer. In Bahrain, which is made up of islands, they drew close, they brush up against each other. The cause of peace requires this, and dialogue is “the oxygen of peace”. Do not forget this. Dialogue is the oxygen of peace. Even for peace in our homes. If there is war there between husband and wife, they can move ahead in peace, with dialogue. In the family, too, dialogue; dialogue, for peace is preserved through dialogue. Almost 60 years ago, the Second Vatican Council, speaking about building an edifice of peace, stated that “it certainly demands that [men and women] extend their thoughts and their spirit beyond the confines of their own nation, that they put aside national selfishness and ambition to dominate other nations, and that they nourish a profound reverence for the whole of humanity, which is already making its way so laboriously toward greater unity” (Gaudium et Spes, 82). I sensed this need in Bahrain and I hoped that religious and civil leaders throughout the world might be able to look beyond their own borders, their own communities, to care for the whole. This is the only way to confront certain universal issues, for example, that God is being forgotten, the tragedy of hunger, the care of creation, peace. These things can be thought of all together. In this sense, the Forum for dialogue, entitled “East and West for Human Coexistence”, encouraged choosing the path of encounter and rejecting that of confrontation. How much we need this! There is such a need to encounter each other. I am thinking of the insanity of war — insane! — of which martyred Ukraine is a victim, and of many other conflicts, that will never be resolved with the infantile logic of weapons, but only with the gentle power of dialogue. But in addition to Ukraine, which is being tormented, let us think of the wars that have been going on for years, and let us think of Syria — more than 10 years! — let us think, for example, of Syria, let us think of the children in Yemen, let us think of Myanmar: everywhere! Right now, Ukraine is closer. What do wars do? They destroy, they destroy humanity, they destroy everything. Conflicts should not be resolved through war.


Bahrain to welcome ‘Father Pope’ for historic return to Gulf region

Both Christians and Muslims are welcoming Pope Francis to Bahrain as “Father Pope” for his historic visit to the Gulf country, says Nivedita Dhadphale, a Bahraini communications expert.

Bahrain to welcome ‘Father Pope’ for historic return to Gulf region

Both Christians and Muslims are welcoming Pope Francis to Bahrain as “Father Pope” for his historic visit to the Gulf country, says Nivedita Dhadphale, a Bahraini communications expert.

Nov 03, 2022

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A priest walks in front of a poster of Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Manama

By Devin Watkins – Manama, Bahrain
Pope Francis arrives in the Kingdom of Bahrain on Thursday for a 4-day visit to shine the spotlight on the twin themes of interreligious dialogue and closeness to Christians living in the Muslim-majority nation.

“For Bahrain, this visit is very historic, because we have never had someone like the Pope come here in terms of promoting dialogue.”

Nivedita Dhadphale, a consultant with Bahrain’s National Communication Centre, offered that description of the Pope’s 39th Apostolic Journey abroad, on 3-6 November.

Open, welcoming society
Speaking to Vatican News in Bahrain, Ms. Dhadphale said the country has a “long history of churches and places of worship of different religions.”

The British-Bahraini communications expert has spent the last 30 years in Bahrain, but she still remembers being struck when she saw that Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was celebrated openly, as well as public displays of Christmas decorations.

“I’ve lived here for over three decades, and what I can say is that it’s a very, very open society and the people are very warm and they’re just welcoming.”

Relations among various religions, said Ms. Dhadphale, who is of Indian origin and professes Hinduism, goes beyond tolerance of the beliefs of others.


Pope Francis uses Bahrain visit to foster Christian-Muslim dialogue 

  • King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa invited the pope to come to the country

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis intends to foster dialogue between Catholics and Muslims during his coming trip to Bahrain, and will launch a message of peace to the Arabian Gulf.

The Pope will be in Bahrain from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6. The trip will begin with a visit at the Sakhir Royal palace to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who invited him to come to the country.

This will be the tenth trip for Francis to a country with a Muslim majority and a tiny Catholic presence of nearly 80,000 out of a population of about 1.3 million.

“It will also be a ‘sign’ for Shiite Islam, in the framework of a strategy of rapprochement with different branches of the Muslim faith the Pope is following,” Fr Giuseppe Ciutti, an Italian priest who spent time in Iraq and studies the relationship between Islam and Catholicism, told Arab News.

Monsignor Paul Hinder, the apostolic administrator of the North Arabia apostolic region, which includes Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, said at a press conference that the Pope’s trip to Bahrain followed the path begun with the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Coexistence,” which Francis signed in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi together with Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al Azhar, a figure of reference for Sunni Muslims.

Hinder believes that the Pope will carry out a “positive strategy” of rapprochement with the “different currents” of the Muslim faith and offer an invitation to continue along the path of dialogue with other religions.

Bahrain will be the 58th country visited during his pontificate by Pope Francis, and he will be the first pontiff in history to set foot there.

“It is an ancient land where different national, ethnic and religious groups coexist and therefore it is a precious step in the journey of fraternity the Pope has undertaken,” Bruni said.


Pope Francis to meet Muslim leaders, small Christian community in Bahrain

By Hannah Brockhaus

Rome Newsroom, Oct 6, 2022 / 05:40 am

On the first-ever papal visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis will close a forum on dialogue, meet with the grand imam of al-Azhar, and pray at a new Catholic cathedral.

The Vatican released the full itinerary for the pope’s Nov. 3–6 trip to the Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf.

The theme of the visit is “Peace on earth to people of goodwill,” inspired by Luke 2:14. The logo is a stylized image of two hands open toward God: one in the colors of the Vatican flag and one with the flag of Bahrain. An olive branch represents peace, while the text “Pope Francis” is in the color blue to represent the visit’s entrustment to the Virgin Mary.

The logo and motto of the papal trip to Bahrain. Screenshot via Vatican Media
The logo and motto of the papal trip to Bahrain. Screenshot via Vatican Media

Pope Francis will land in Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, on Thursday, Nov. 3. After a private meeting with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Francis will address members of the government and civil society.

On the second day of the visit, the pope will give the closing speech at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence. 


Religious leaders unite for peace at open dialogue event in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is home to 18 religious’ denominations, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.

In September, it opened its doors for a global interfaith dialogue. Its capital Astana hosted the 7th edition of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Delegates from more than 50 countries came together, urging peace and consolidation around the world.

“The efforts of world leaders, the efforts of international organizations are not enough to overcome the challenges that humanity is facing. And the voice of spiritual leaders who have great authority among the world’s population, calls for the joint overcoming of all the challenges. This is very important,” says Askar Shakirov, the deputy chairman of the senate of Kazakhstan.

“We have a common goal but we are no longer looking at our differences but we are recognising our common concern, for those who struggle or suffer.”

Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism as well as other world religions were represented at the Congress. This year Pope Francis as well as the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb were among the renowned guests.

“The main result is that we are sitting together, we are speaking together and we are understanding that to find solutions for the problems in the world is not by fighting, is not during by war, but sitting together and speaking,” David Baruch Lau, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel said to Euronews.

One of the goals of the congress is to reintroduce the language of reconciliation and peace to a world shattered by conflict and tragedy. It also strives to put religion in the spotlight as a tool to help defuse confrontations.

The final declaration of the Congress calls upon world leaders to abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric, which leads to destabilisation in the world. It demands a cease from conflict and bloodshed in all corners. It says that extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence have nothing to do with authentic religion and must be rejected.

Participants of the Congress planted trees in the new Peace and Harmony park in the capital of Kazakhstan. This ceremony is a symbol of hope for the interfaith dialogue to grow and bring about change, to unite different communities across the globe and to inspire people to join their efforts in the name of peace.


Muslims for the Pope

Pope Francis has shown understanding many moderate Muslims lack a voice and are in fact the first victims of extremists

Despite much of the popular alarmist talk, Islam is arguably in a deeper crisis than the Christian world, and this is the problem.

Islam has little or no structured unified organization independent from a single state, unlike the Christian world, where the Catholic church is the largest unitary religion, and there are vastly organized Orthodox and Episcopalian churches.

There is no longer a caliph and a publicly recognized caliphate able to muster the faithful of the world.https://d3f71db5a4a064e2a6e289b5f9409def.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0

There is no Islamic superpower. There are many countries where Islam is important – Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco – but they cannot band together. They have very different agendas that have little to do with their religious beliefs.

None can rise to the rank of superpower, challenging the United States, China, Russia, the European Union or even Japan or India.

Unlike in the first Cold War, there is no superpower supporting the Islamic world per se, fighting Israel, portrayed as a puppet of the United States.

There is no longer a strategic asset like oil, which since the 1970s gave the Islamic world clout and influence through blackmail on prices and inflation. Oil is no longer a rare commodity. Gas and oil are plentiful, and new shale technology is revolutionizing the market, taking away the hedge these Islamic countries had in the past.

They do not even have blackmail through the export of terrorism. In the past three decades, some rich Islamic countries paid off radical extremists to wage war on infidels in foreign countries. This policy exported abroad an internal threat and at the same time lent legitimacy to the existing authoritarian regimes.


Pope visit favors Shia-Catholic connection; Iraqi Christians remain divided

Iraq (MNN) — Pope Francis made history earlier this month when he visited Iraq. Today, Catholic leaders praise the trip as a “milestone” for relations between the Catholic Church and Shia Islam.

Speaking to Crux last week, senior official Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso said:

For what concerns the relationship between Christianity and Shia Islam, the Najaf meeting is a further step forward for the dialogue of respect and friendship with the Shia community both in Iran and in Iraq, in which both the local Church and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which I preside over, have been involved in for years.

“The main impetus of [the pope] coming is a political framework, not a religious or spiritual framework. The outcomes of that are about building relationships between Muslims and Christians,” Samuel* of Redemptive Stories says.

“It was very interesting and very telling that he visited Shia sites and met with Shia leaders as the primary impetus for his travels, which is something most heads of state would never do.”

The Vatican is the world’s smallest independent nation, and Pope Francis is its appointed leader. As described here, “the general politics and governance of the Vatican City are undertaken by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope… The Pope exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive and judicial power over the state of the Vatican City.”


Pope Francis and Islam: three cornerstones of a magisterium

A common thread links Pope Francis’ keynote speeches given in Baku, Cairo and Ur, which indicate the need for an authentic religiosity to worship God and love our brothers and sisters, and a concrete commitment to justice and peace.

Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. (AP Photo/Vatican Media)

By Andrea Tornielli

There is a common thread linking three important interventions of Pope Francis regarding interreligious dialogue, and Islam in particular.

It is a magisterium that indicates a road map with three fundamental points of reference: the role of religion in our societies, the criterion of authentic religiosity, and the concrete way to walk as brothers and sisters to build peace. We find them in the speeches that the Pope gave in Azerbaijan in 2016; in Egypt in 2017; and now during his historic trip to Iraq, in the unforgettable meeting in Ur of the Chaldeans, the city of Abraham.

The interlocutors of the first speech were the Azerbaijani Shiites, but also the other religious communities of the country. The second speech was mainly addressed to the Egyptian Sunni Muslims. Finally, the third was addressed to a wider interreligious audience made of a Muslim majority, yet including not only Christians but also representatives of the ancient Mesopotamian religions.

What Pope Francis is proposing and implementing is not an approach that forgets differences and identities in order to equalize all. Instead, it is a call to be faithful to one’s own religious identity in order to reject any instrumentalization of religion to foment hatred, division, terrorism, discrimination, and at the same time, to witness in increasingly secularized societies that we need God.

In Baku, before the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and representatives of other religious communities in the country, Pope Francis recalled the “great task” of religions: that of “accompanying men and women looking for the meaning of life, helping them to understand that the limited capacities of the human being and the goods of this world must never become absolutes.”