The Demands of Dialogue With Muslims
Interview With Catholic Theologian Ilaria Morali
ROME, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI has helped to open a new kind of dialogue with Islam, says theologian Ilaria Morali.
Morali, a professor of dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, takes part annually in meetings of interreligious dialogue in Turkey.
In this interview with us, Morali comments on the points of exchange on the faith and interreligious dialogue with Muslim intellectuals.
Q: You have just returned from Turkey. In the intellectual world in which you moved, what was the atmosphere in regard to the Pope's visit?
Morali: The news these days certainly shows that there are objective difficulties, especially among ordinary people and the most alienated movements.
Without a doubt, this climate contributed to the wave of media propaganda following the Regensburg address. The latter in turn triggered an emotional outburst, before the meaning of the Holy Father's words was clarified and before there was time to reread the content.
And this emotional outburst has also touched intellectual environments, which perhaps are not totally used to the new style of the papacy inaugurated by Benedict XVI.
In my talks, however, I have been able to verify that, beyond an apparent mistrust, there is great interest in this Pope. He has sparked a positive leap of quality in the Muslim-Christian dialogue, showing that confrontation, if it is to be true, must not fear to also touch upon controversial or uncomfortable points for both sides.
Q: Has Benedict XVI instituted a new way of dialoguing with Islam?
Morali: From what I have been able to gather in Istanbul, talking with some Muslim colleagues, I realize that they never imagined that there could be another way of dialoguing other than that of John Paul II.
They thought it was the only possible way for communication, while [instead] it was necessary to take a step for a further maturing of the exchange.
And this step, as is the case of every novelty, has entailed a re-establishment of the balances and the creation of new premises to move the dialogue from gestures to intellectual confrontation, lively and difficult, addressing the problems and involving the world of moderate intellectuals more directly, giving them an extraordinary opportunity to come out and participate with greater courage in the exchange.
During our meeting, a Muslim colleague said that "dialogue" has become an expression that has suffered an inflation, as it is used without coming to the point.
In fact, there has been a total loss of meaning of what the Catholic Church wished to say and do when Paul VI spoke about it for the first time in "Ecclesiam Suam."
And I think my colleague's affirmation is true. Many Catholics have lost the exact meaning that the magisterium attributes to dialogue and have reduced its value, thinking -- and also making Muslims think -- that dialogue should be expressed essentially with gestures of friendship and solidarity, avoiding a serene but difficult confrontation including on painful points.
Q: But dialogue cannot be reduced to theological topics and "painful" points, as you say.
Morali: Dialogue cannot be improvised; moreover, it is a mistake to conceive it in the abstract, as is often thought, as "dialogue between religions."
Therefore, I am convinced that, and I have said it to some Muslim friends of Istanbul, thanks to this papal visit not only will they know a new face of the papacy, but Benedict XVI's unheard-of focus will lead them to be far more involved in the exchange and reflection than previously.
Q: What is your perception of the situation of Christians in Turkey?
Morali: I certainly perceived great suffering, in part as a legacy of discriminations and persecutions suffered in the not-too-distant past, and in part due to the situation of dispersion and fragmentation of the Christian communities themselves.
The murder of Father Andrea Santoro [last Feb. 5] is certainly the sign that objective dangers exist to which the most committed people are exposed.
Turkish Islam, as some explained to me, is not only that of the big cities like Istanbul, which looks increasingly like a Western metropolis, but also that of isolated fields, small villages and extremist formations.
Too often we make simplifications thinking that Islam is a unitary event, but as my Turkish friends explain, in that country Islam is made up of many realities.
On the other hand, in fact, dialogue such as those in Istanbul that are held under the sponsorship of the Marmara University of Istanbul, reflect[s] a change of climate.
I will give examples to confirm what I am saying: Last year I went to visit the Islamic Studies Center in Istanbul, especially the library. Well, my Turkish friends showed me with justified pride the sector they have dedicated to Christian books. They have established it by design to give Muslim students the possibility to go directly to the Christian sources to learn about our tradition of faith and our history.
I have examined the shelves and have seen how much care they took in finding these books. They told me, however, how difficult it was to find truly reliable books in Catholic publishing houses that give an objective view of the doctrine and of Christian history.
I told them they were right, seeing the lack of quality of some publications produced by Catholic publishing houses, at times more inclined to publish books of relativist theology than of healthy Catholic theology.
I know that a Muslim colleague has translated into Turkish the encyclical "Fides et Ratio" and will see to its publication. This initiative will not only benefit students of comparative theology but also Christians themselves who certainly do not have the means and strength to undertake such initiatives.
Q: How do you live the rapprochement with Turkish Muslims?
Morali: As dogmatic theologian I have to say to Christians, who might wish to venture in interreligious dialogue, that an imperative for an exchange is to avoid any improvisation.
I am not a professor specialized in Islam and my interlocutors know it, so that in my expositions I present Catholic dogma simply, leaving to Father Maurice Bormanns the implications for Islam.
My communications are appreciated because I speak with extreme frankness of my faith without expecting my interlocutors to be in agreement with me.
The meetings in Istanbul demand from each person a long preparation. For my part, I work dialoguing much with Father Bormanns to be able to elaborate my interventions from a perspective that might turn out to be of greater interest to my interlocutors. Often my conferences are the basis for a dialogue that Father Bormanns, with his great competence, carries out establishing comparisons and parallelisms or, for example, quoting authors.
In this way, the Catholic dogmatic and the Catholic expert in Islam become actors in a very profound dialogue.
So I have been able to verify, among other things, the superficiality of some focuses seen in the Catholic world, when there is talk of dialogue between religions, as if one religion was the same as another, or when "initiatives of dialogue" are organized without adequate preparation, either on the subject of the Catholic faith or of the tradition of our interlocutor.
Q: Why are you so critical of some forms of interreligious dialogue?
Morali: I recall that last year, at the moment of exchange with the assembly, a person in the audience asked me if I could at least accept that Mohammed was the last and greatest of the prophets.
Addressing an audience made up of Muslims, and before answering, I asked him in turn: "If I posed a similar question on Jesus Christ, for example, asking a Muslim professor to admit at least that Jesus Christ is as great as Mohammed, would you think he is a good Muslim if, to please me, he said I was right? You would prefer, I believe, that he be consistent with his faith even at the cost of displeasing me with his answer. I think that you want an answer from me as a Catholic woman and would not appreciate an answer of compromise to please you. You would not consider me a good Catholic Christian. That is why I answer you as any Catholic should answer: with sincerity and serenity."
I remember that his reasoning touched deep chords in my Muslim colleagues who expressed great appreciation for the sincerity and transparency I showed, and also for my courage in giving them an answer which was certainly not totally acceptable for a Muslim.
A professor said to me: "Dr. Morali, we want to dialogue with true Catholics, not with mediocre Catholics, though this is certainly rather more difficult. Continue like this, please."
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Benedict, Orthodox, Catholic, Turkey, Muslims, Islam
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- 7 inspiring quotes to change your life forever
- St. Venturino of Bergamo: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, March 28, 2017
- 'Living Lent': Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Day 28
- Supermassive black hole discovered surfing gravitational wave HD Video
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, March 28, 2017
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 HD Video
- Miracle baby defies odds after mother refuses doctors' abortion ...
- Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico calls out 'traitor' Mexicans HD
- Daily Reading for Sunday, March 26th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, March 28th, 2017 HD
- Daily Reading for Monday, March 27th, 2017 HD
Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.