Pope John Paul II's Reflections on Islam

  • John Paul II, address on his Visit to the Umayyad Great Mosque, May 6, 2001 – first pope to enter a mosque
    “It is in mosques and churches that the Muslim and Christian communities shape their religious identity, and it is there that the young receive a significant part of their religious education. What sense of identity is instilled in young Christians and young Muslims in our churches and mosques? It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.
  • “I truly hope that our meeting today in the Umayyad mosque will signal our determination to advance interreligious dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam. This dialogue has gained momentum in recent decades; and today we can be grateful for the road we have traveled together so far.

Pope John Paul II meets with young Muslim who shot him.

The Moderate Muslim Response:

For centuries, Muslims have felt alienated by Christianity. Though Muslims recognize Christianity as a revealed religion of God, Christian denominations have rejected Islam as heresy and waged holy wars against it.

Despite theological disagreements with Islam, Pope John Paul II departed from this historical practice. He always considered Muslims as a fellow spiritual community deserving of respect and admiration.

Islam and Christianity share a majority of their beliefs. The principle value of the unity of divinity, the prophets, Jesus and Mary, Jerusalem and the promise of life after life are all common to both faiths.

The Koran, the book that Muslims believe is the direct revelations from God, acknowledges Judaism and Christianity as precursors and early forms of Islam.

Today, through the efforts of John Paul II as a pioneer in interfaith bridge-building, Muslims, too, feel as though Catholicism has started to reciprocate and recognize Islam and Muslims as partners in spirituality.

The Radical Muslim Response:

Muslim anger over Pope's first visit to a mosque
Nicolas Pelham in Damascus
Sunday May 6, 2001
The Observer

After an angry visit to Greece, the frail Pope John Paul II is now accused of bringing Christianity by stealth to one of Islam's most important holy sites. His visit today to the historic Umayyad mosque in Damascus looks set to spark controversy. It is the first time a pontiff has entered a mosque.

Muslim leaders preparing to receive the Pope have demanded that he remove his cross, saying the crucifix is an insult to Islam. They also want him to say sorry for the Crusades, following his dramatic apology in Athens on Friday for the 'sins' committed by the Roman Catholic Church against its Orthodox brethren.

'In a Muslim state, crucifixes should not be brandished in public, all the more so inside the holy place of Islam,' said Sheikh al-Hout, of the nearby Amara mosque. 'The Pope must respect these conditions like anyone else.'

Islam recognises Jesus as a prophet, but claims he never died on the cross.

The Catholic bishop organising the papal visit, Izidore Battikha, dismissed the demands as the fuming of fanatics. 'There will be no apology, and the cross will be prominent on the Pope's vestments when he enters the mosque,' he said.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are set to pack the biblical Straight Street in Damascus, where St Paul converted to Christianity, to watch the Popemobile enter the Umayyad mosque. Syria's authorities are ruling out public protests. Demonstrations are banned under Syria's 40-year-old martial law.

But away from the state fanfare, Muslim preachers across Syria have questioned the Pope's motives for choosing the Umayyad mosque, which 1,400 years ago was a Byzantine cathedral and still houses the tomb of St John the Baptist. The Vatican's refusal to apologise for Christian aggression against Muslims has fuelled fears that the Pope may be seeking to revive the millennial battle for control of the holy places, rather than looking for reconciliation with Islam.

'History teaches us that Western pilgrimages have covert political motives,' said Dr Bouti, Syria's leading Sunni preacher. He joined other standard-bearers of conservative Islam to block the Vatican's attempt to hold a common Christian-Muslim prayer in the mosque.


In touch with my inner Mohammad said...

I wonder why Muslims are so easily offended? Draw a little "Mohammad Cartoon" and cities go ablaze. Use your left hand the wrong way in Saudi Arabia and risk having it chopped off. But putting a crucifix in a jar of urine is supposed to be viewed with tolerance. Maybe overly touchy Muslims should be subjected to a few Diversity Workshops.

Strange Fruit said...

Remember the good old days in the USA when the good, church-going White boys down South would tie a rope around a Black man's neck and hang him from a tree because he look wrong at a White woman?

Or in these posts out Islam, do we have ignore American history? Remember those bucksking freedom fighters who were picking off those Redcoats in 1776? Or would the British have called them terrorists?