Interfaith Dialogue: January 2011 Archives

Egyptian Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir is a Professor at Rome's Pontifical Oriental Institute and scholar on Islam spoke to Emer McCarthy, an interviewer at Vatican Radio who asked by if a Western concept of political democracy is adequate to Egypt and other Arab nations. Father Samir saidit is "applicable but not yet practicable."

He further said, "What we need first of all is justice, equality, social reform because the gap between rich and poor is far too wide and this is the real cause of the Islamic fundamentalist movement. We need change, the Arab world must change. We need alternate parties but in our countries there is nothing". 

Plus, it was advanced that "If you have authoritarian regimes they systematically destroy all the leaderships so only people who are in agreement with the current system are in power". In the case of Egypt "Mubarack nominated his second in command, Omar Suleiman who is a good diplomat a military officer. But the question is this good for the country?".

For more on the story, read it here...
Controversies never end between the Holy See and Islam. Dialogue between a Vatican group and an Egyptian one is now suspended in a surprising move. From what I can tell, some individuals are easily swayed by sentiment and the immediacy of political power and not by true faith and reason. Not to mention the poor translations of speeches given by the Pope. This is not a new issue and it is a matter of concern. I am inclined to say that the tensions originate not in Pope Benedict's statements on Islam and Christianity, religious freedom and reciprocity, and faith and reason, but the tensions in Egypt (and other Islamic countries) over secularizing tendencies of some government leaders and the more conservative religious types. Islam, like Christianity, is in a precarious situation with the faith not being able to fruitfully interact in society. They are facing what 1968 was for the West. Islam is losing ground with many people, though it's hard to prove this on occasion. On the other hand, I am not convinced, from what I read coming from certain religious leaders in Islam, that broadening reason by faith is a priority. They say one thing and do something opposite. Many of them can't (won't?) distinguish secularity from secularism. Certainly conflicting statements and reversing previously held "positions" is confusing and leading to heightened anxieties.

Now the Islamic University of Al-Azhar, Egypt's most prestigious institution of higher learning, is accusing Pope Benedict with propagating a negative attitudes toward Islam and therefore freezing dialogue. Those who hold that idea aren't reading what the Pope has said. And our consistent approach is openness to dialogue. What does that tell you? And who, really, does the dialogue benefit? The answer: the West according to some Muslims.

This statement comes a month before the meeting of the Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions. provided this story today. I highly recommend it.
pakistani Pope protest.jpgPakistani Muslims protested the part of Pope Benedict's State of the World address where he says the blasphemy law ought to be repealed. Well, Pakistan's Muslims don't think it's wise.

The online magazine Catholic Culture (here below) carried this story today, which ran yesterday in the AFP, about a Muslim policeman killing Christian women when tensions are already running following the killing of Christians in a church. More sadness for humanity. It is also incredibly sad that the Egyptian Ambassador to the Holy See has stated that the view that Christians are not persecuted. Can you believe it??? The Ambassador's head is in the sand.

Less than two weeks after a church bombing in Alexandria left 21 Coptic Christians dead, an off-duty policeman shot four Christians on a train, killing a 71-year-old man. A fifth person was also wounded.

The Pope always seems to get criticized at every twist-and-turn. He announced a gathering in Assisi to have a World Day of Prayer in part to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Day of Prayer hosted by John Paul II and to build bridges -he is the Pontiff, the "bridge builder"--after all. Benedict's noble and good motive is this: "I will make a pilgrimage to the town of St Francis, inviting my Christian brethren of different confessions, leaders of the world's religious traditions and, in their hearts, all men and women of good will, to join me on this journey in order to commemorate that important historical gesture of my predecessor, and solemnly to renew the commitment of believers of all religions to live their religious faith as a service to the cause of peace."

Michael Fitzgerald.jpg

These early days of 2011 are shaping up to be an interfaith challenge with all sorts of messages, clarifications and critiques of current events between Christians and Muslims. The latest, noted here, is a statement given by the Pope's ambassador, the Apostolic Nunccio to Egypt, Archbishop Michael L. Fiztgerald, M. Afr. The Nuncio,73, is a former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The statement was given in response to a request of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate clarifying the Pope's January 2nd statement against the attacks against the Coptic faithful.

The statement of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with regard to the tragic attack on the Church of the Saints in Alexandria has met with some criticism. It may therefore be helpful to give an account of what the Pope actually said and of his recent teaching on the way to peace.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, responded to what I believe is unfair, even bigoted criticism of Pope Benedict by Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Egypt following the January 1st bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church. 21 dead and nearly a 100 wounded. Clear it is to me, the Muslim world rarely pays close attention to what the Catholic Church believes and what the Pope says.

Ahmed al-Tayeb, current current Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, condemned the bombing. The imam paid a visit to the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III to offer condolences. But his good will toward the Christians however, also include a strident criticism Pope Benedict who asked civil authorities to protect Christians. In Al-Tayeb's mind the Pope's request was an "unacceptable interference in Egypt's affairs." Further, said al-Tayeb, "I disagree with the Pope's view, and I ask why did the Pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?"

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Interfaith Dialogue category from January 2011.

Interfaith Dialogue: December 2010 is the previous archive.

Interfaith Dialogue: February 2011 is the next archive.

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