News / Europe

Strained Under Benedict, Vatican's Interfaith Ties Already Improving

Strained Under Benedict, Vatican's Interfaith Ties Already Improvingi
March 15, 2013 11:21 PM
Leaders of Muslim, Jewish and other non-Catholic faiths are welcoming the election of Pope Francis. Many expect improved interfaith relations after setbacks under Pope Benedict. VOA's religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Strained Under Benedict, Vatican's Interfaith Ties Already Improving
Leaders of Muslim, Jewish and other non-Catholic faiths are welcoming the election of Pope Francis. Many expect improved interfaith relations after setbacks under Pope Benedict.
The Vatican's relations with other faiths have always been fraught. Benedict's papacy, however, has left them in need of repair. He sparked anger across the Muslim world when he cited a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought things that were "evil and inhuman."

Omar Shahin, the secretary general of the North American Imams Federation, said, "It was a very bad start, and, because of this speech, people stop(ped) all interfaith dialogue."

Benedict later apologized saying the emperor's views weren't his own.

Shahin said Francis' first step should be reaching out to Al-Azhar, a center of Islamic learning in Cairo that severed relations with the Vatican in 2011.

"So now is the time to communicate with them again in order to reopen this dialogue and build more bridges between the Christian and Muslim communities," said Shahin.

Benedict also angered Jews when he revoked the ex-communication of a bishop who denied the Holocaust.

Pope Francis

-Full name: Jorge Mario Bergoglio
-Born December 17, 1936 (age 76) in Buenos Aires, Argentina
-Made cardinal by Pope John Paul II in February 2001
-First pope from Latin America
-First Jesuit pope
As cardinal, though, Jorge Bergoglio had warm ties with rabbis in Argentina. One referred to the new pope as "my rabbi."

Bergoglio's response to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires stood out, said American rabbi David Saperstein.

"He was one of the few very prominent leaders to have spoken out, very forcefully, denouncing the attack, and standing in solidarity with the Jewish community. And that meant a lot to us," said Saperstein.

Benedict angered other Christian denominations by suggesting they are not true churches. In the first days of Francis' papacy, however, the Vatican's relations with other faiths appear to be on the mend.

  • Pope Francis with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, holding a picture of a plaque commemorating the 1984 peace and friendship treaty between Argentina and Chile, March 18, 2013.
  • Pope Francis and Uruguay's priest Gonzalo Aemilius greet people at the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
  • Pope Francis greets the crowds after conducting a mass in Saint Anna church inside the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
  • Pope Francis appears at the window of his future private apartment to bless the faithful, gathered below in St. Peter's Square, during the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican March 17, 2013.
  • Pope Francis conducts a mass in Santa Anna church inside the Vatican, March 17, 2013.
  • Pope Francis leaves the Paul VI hall with security at the Vatican, March 16, 2013.
  • Pope Francis checks out of the church-run residence where he had been staying in Rome before becoming pontiff, March, 14, 2013. (Osservatore Romano)
  • Key chains featuring images of the newly-elected Pope Francis are displayed in a tourist shop near the Vatican in Rome, March 15, 2013.
  • In this image made from video provided by CTV, Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals, inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, March 14, 2013.
  • Newly elected Pope Francis waves from the steps of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome, March 14, 2013.
  • Newly elected Pope Francis walks in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore during a private visit in Rome, March 14, 2013.
  • Newly elected Pope Francis makes a private visit to the 5th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, in a photo released by Osservatore Romano in Rome, March 14, 2013.
  • A nun takes a photograph of the first batch of souvenirs adorned with freshly-printed pictures of the newly-elected Pope Francis in a shop at the Vatican, March 14, 2013.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs