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Pope Meets Muslim Envoys, Says Interfaith Dialogue is Vital for Future


Pope Benedict has met with diplomats from predominantly Muslim countries and said both Christians and Muslims must work together against intolerance and violence. The meeting at the pope's summer residence outside Rome was aimed at defusing Muslim anger over a papal address about Islam.

Speaking in French, Pope Benedict assured 21 Muslim diplomats that he has esteem and profound respect for Muslim believers. He was addressing them at the papal summer residence in Castelgandolfo. Also present were Italian Islamic religious leaders.

The pope told them that religious dialogue and inter-cultural dialogue are necessary to build a world of peace. He said Christians and Muslims must learn to work together against intolerance and violence.

Pope Benedict said that following the work of his predecessor, John Paul II, he would like to see relations between Muslims and Christians develop further in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue.

After his speech the pope personally greeted each one of the envoys.

The meeting was organized by the Vatican to ease tension between Roman Catholics and the Muslim world. Those tensions exploded after the pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who had criticized Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

Many Muslims took violent exception to this. The pope did not refer to his quotation, saying the circumstances, which led to the meeting are well-known.

Reacting to the pope's talk with the Muslim leaders, the Italian representative of the World Muslim League, Mario Scialoja, said he thought it was a "very good and warm speech". He added that the pope recalled the differences, but expressed his willingness to continue in a cordial and fruitful dialogue.

The Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican said the pope's words should now end the anger that followed his comments on Islam. The Iraqi envoy said the pope spoke of his deep respect for Islam and this is what the Muslim world was expecting to hear.