The138 Muslim wise men who wrote a letter to Benedict XVI in 2007 in response to a controversial speech he gave in Regensburg are now calling his resignation a “last act to serve as a good example”
GIACOMO GALEAZZIvatican city, Vatican Insider
“We wish to express our great esteem for Joseph Ratzinger after previous misunderstandings.” After the controversy which broke out in 2006 over the misinterpretation of a speech the Pope made in Regensburg, dialogue between the Muslim world and Benedict XVI has intensified and produced more fruits. The regret expressed by Muslim intellectuals regarding the Pope’s resignation proves this. The news about Benedict XVI’s resignation “was highly noticed by all the Muslims who had dialogue with him.” This is what the former Great Mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric said in a statement issued on behalf of the “A Common Word” initiative, a group of 138 Muslim wise men who sent a letter to Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders in October 2007, regarding Muslim-Christian dialogue.
“First as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and then Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013 after John Paul II's death, he will be remembered as a foremost Catholic theologian and a sincere pastor for the Catholic faithful,” a statement issued recently reads. “Although initially hurt by his remarks about Islam on September 12, 2006, while lecturing on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg, Germany, Muslim Scholars appreciated his apology afterwards and his subsequent friendly visits to Islamic countries and mosques, particularly the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. They also appreciated his willingness to engage with the historic ‘A Common Word’ initiative of 138 Muslim scholars of October 13th, 2007, and his establishing (together with them) the Catholic–Muslim Forum for dialogue between Catholics and Muslims,” the statement goes on to say.
“The Pope's graceful resignation as a last act to serve as a good example was also duly noted,” Mustafa Ceric added. We hope that the spirit of friendly Muslim-Catholic dialogue will continue with H.H. Pope Benedict XVI's successor and that Muslim and Catholic communities all around the world will live in harmony.”
A hundred and thirty eight intellectuals, Muftis and Muslim leaders from forty three nations across all continents wrote to the Pope on 13 October 2007 to try to establish a more solid cooperation between Christians and Muslims in order to promote peace throughout the world. They sent the same letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, as well as to the other Orthodox patriarchs, the head of the Church of England and to the leaders of all major Churches and Protestant communities. The influential nature of this letter was not only due to the individual prestige of each of the figures who signed it, but also because of the fact that it was signed by representatives of the various Islamic denominations and law schools, including the Mufti Mustafa Cagrici who accompanied the Pope on his historic visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Although the document was of a strictly religious nature, it did not fail to mention concrete international issues. It refers directly to the Iraq war when it states: “As Muslims we say to Christians that neither we nor Islam are against them, at least as long as they do not decide to wage war against the Muslims, oppress them or chase them from their homes on the grounds of their religion.”
The letter recalls that together, Muslims and Christians make up over half of the world’s population. “Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians."
A month later, as he expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the important initiative of the eminent group of Muslim figures, the Pope reiterated the need for dialogue based on concrete respect for human dignity, an objective knowledge of each other’s religion, shared religious experience and a common effort to promote mutual respect and acceptance.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told Vatican Radio: “The Pope very much appreciated the positive and non-polemical spirit of the text. Whilst not ignoring the differences between us, the Pope believes Christians and Muslims can work together because both Christians and Muslims believe in one God who is Providence, universal Creator and Judge and who will judge our actions. We must therefore all make an effort to be his “faithful” and obey him. The letter sent by the 138 Muslim figures also mentions one other crucial point and that is that love for God and love for one’s neighbour constitutes the essence of every religion.”