Catholics and Muslims must show the common belief that we are members of one family loved by God our Creator, and uphold the dignity of every human person, says Benedict XVI.

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Publisher: Zenit 

Calls for Universal Protection of Human Rights

Catholics and Muslims must show the common belief that we are members of one family loved by God our Creator, and uphold the dignity of every human person, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience the members of the newly formed Catholic-Muslim Forum at the conclusion of its three-day seminar. The forum is comprised of 29 members of each creed and was formed by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who sent an open letter to Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders in October 2007.

After greeting the participants of the forum, the Holy Father assured them of his prayerful attention to the progress of the seminar. He expressed the awareness "that it represents one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians within the framework of other regular encounters which the Holy See promotes with various Muslim groups."

He acknowledged the recent increase in dialogue, initiatives and meetings between Catholic and Muslim groups, and expressed the hope that the present seminar will motivate all involved to pass on its positive reflections on love to all people in order to effectively change their daily lives.

God and neighbor

"The theme which you have chosen for your meeting — "Love of God, Love of Neighbor: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect" — is particularly significant," said Benedict XVI. "It was taken from the [Muslims'] open letter, which presents love of God and love of neighbor as the heart of Islam and Christianity alike. This theme highlights even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions."

The Pope further distinguished the Christian understanding of love of God and neighbor, and noted that the foundation of Christian love is the recognition that "God is Love" and that this "infinite and eternal love enables us to respond by giving all our love in return."

He added: "It was out of love that he created the whole universe, and by his love he becomes present in human history. The love of God became visible, manifested fully and definitively in Jesus Christ. He thus came down to meet man and, while remaining God, took on our nature. He gave himself in order to restore full dignity to each person and to bring us salvation.

"How could we ever explain the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption except by Love? Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own."

Recognizing commonalities

The Holy Father noted the fact that "Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God." Yet in light of the common position on the need to worship God as Creator, he exhorted both sides: "Together we must show, by our mutual respect and solidarity, that we consider ourselves members of one family: the family that God has loved and gathered together from the creation of the world to the end of human history."

The other common position that the Pope stressed was the need "to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence." For Christians, he continued, this love of neighbor is inseparable from the love of God, and is the proof of its authenticity.

"The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy, and readily recalls the 'Golden Rule' in its own version: your faith will not be perfect, unless you do unto others that which you wish for yourselves," he affirmed.

A peaceful future

The Pontiff called for the "recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life, which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike" as the starting point for more peaceful worldwide relations.

Benedict XVI encouraged those present to protect the rights of all people everywhere: "Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual's freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

"The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God."

He challenged both sides to testify in word and deed to the authenticity of their religion's dedication to peace and mutual understanding. "It is essential that we do so," the Pope said, "lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves."

With a hopeful expression for the continued work of the "Catholic-Muslim Forum," the Bishop of Rome entrusted the success of its mission to God and encouraged its members: "Dear friends, let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements.

"Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future."