CAIR Welcomes Pope’s Statement of Respect for Islam

Washington, DC: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) May 8 welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s expression of respect for Islam and Muslims as he began his first trip to the Middle East.

After being greeted in Jordan by King Abdullah, the pope said: "My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by his majesty the king in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam

“We welcome Pope Benedict’s expression of respect and hope his positive statement will be reciprocated by leaders and ordinary people throughout the region,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Awad is a signatory, along with 137 other Muslim leaders and scholars, to an open letter titled "A Common Word Between Us and You," which was sent to Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and more than 20 other Christian leaders in 2007. The open letter was designed to promote understanding between Muslims and Christians worldwide.

Pope Benedict began a delicate trip to the Middle East on Friday by expressing "deep respect" for Islam and saying the Catholic Church would do everything it could to help the region's stalled peace process.

Starting the first leg of a trip that will include Israel and the Palestinian territories, he also called for a three-way dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews to help peace.

"Certainly I will try to make a contribution to peace, not as an individual but in the name of the Catholic Church, of the Holy See," he told reporters on the plane taking him to Jordan.

"We are not a political power but a spiritual force and this spiritual force is a reality which can contribute to progress in the peace process," he said.

The Holy See has full diplomatic relations with most of the countries in the Middle East and a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

"As believers we are convinced that prayer is a real force, it opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and can affect history and I think that if millions of believers pray it really is a force that has influence and can make a contribution to moving ahead with peace," he said.

He told reporters that peace efforts were often blocked by partisan interests and that the Church could "help reasonable position bloom" and that it wanted to engage Jews and Muslims in a faith-based dialogue for peace.

"A trilateral dialogue must move forward. It is very important for peace and also to allow each person to live his or her faith well," he said.

The 82-year-old pope appeared careful to avoid overtly politically tinged statements at the start of his first visit to the region, stressing instead the potential of religion to resolve conflicts.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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