Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is vital
to the future of all
On Saturday morning, 20 August, the Holy Father received several
German political and civil Authorities in Audience at the Archbishop's
Residence in Cologne.
Here, in the late afternoon, the Pope also received
representatives of some of the Muslim Communities established in
Germany. Muslims account for 3.2 million of Germany's foreign population
of 7.3 million. More than 2 million are of Turkish origin, 70,000 of
whom live in Cologne. Other Muslims living in Germany come mainly from
Bosnia, Iran, Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr Ridvan Cakir, President of the Turkish-Islamic Union of the
Institute for Religion, greeted the Pope prior to the Holy Father's
Speech to those present.
The following is a translation of the Pope's Address to the
representatives of Islam, given in German.
Dear Muslim Friends!
It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my
As you know, I have come here to meet young people from every
part of Europe and the world. Young people are the future of humanity
and the hope of the nations. My beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II,
once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca
(Morocco): "The young can build a better future if they first put their
faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in
accordance with God’s plan, with wisdom and trust" (Insegnamenti,
VIII/2, 1985, p. 500).
It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear
Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my
concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.
Terrorism poisons relations
I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of
our concerns the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have
firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between
your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for
this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.
Terrorist activity is continually
recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction,
and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair.
Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our
relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every
attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together.
Thanks be to God, we agree on the fact that terrorism of
any kind is a perverse and cruel choice which shows contempt for the
sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil
If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace
of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every
manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel
fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders
progress towards world peace. The task is difficult but not impossible.
— and all
of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers — knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the
spiritual power of prayer.
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the
negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual
respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred,
both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to
act together in the service of fundamental moral values.
The dignity of
the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must
represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to
bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the
quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be
heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo
in peoples’ hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new
Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can
a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move
beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of
Respecting personal dignity
During my meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and
Christian communities and with representatives of the various religious
traditions, I affirmed that "the Church wants to continue building
bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to
seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (L’Osservatore
Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4).
Past experience teaches us that relations
between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual
respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and
even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of
God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to him. The
recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know
only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of
The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the
same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live
with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious
freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative and respect for
minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the
Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.
looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and
subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has
spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek
to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the
Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God . . . Although
considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may
have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all
parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards
sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social
justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people"
(Declaration Nostra Aetate, No. 3).
For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna
Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad
that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these
You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this
country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good
part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim
believers and train them in the Islamic faith.
Teaching is the vehicle
through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly
influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great
responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with
gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.
Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our
time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for
partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism.
Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.
intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced
to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large
measure our future depends.
The young people from many parts of the world
are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and
I pray with
all my heart, dear Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate
God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always.
May the God of
peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the
paths of the world.