Just What The Hell Were You Thinking?
Vatican: 'People obsessed by Islam''We mustn't get the impression there are first-class, second-class religions'
Posted: June 10, 2008
Posted: June 10, 2008
The Vatican says the world is focusing on Islam to the exclusion of other faiths, and there needs to be a balance among the various belief systems when issues are discussed.
"Yes, the people are obsessed by Islam. For example I'm going to India next month and I want to give this message that all religions are equal. Sometimes there are priorities because of particular situations, but we mustn't get the impression there are first class religions and second class religions," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
His comments focused on the council's recent meetings concerning new guidelines for interfaith dialogue and were in an interview with Terrasanta.net, a Website of the Holy Land Review, published by a U.S. church organization. He said the Catholic Church must "have regard for all religions."
"What was interesting about our discussions was that we did not concentrate on Islam because in a way we are being held hostage by Islam a little bit," he said. "Islam is very important, but there are also other great Asiatic religious traditions. Islam is one religion."
According to the United Kingdom Mail newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI has scheduled an unprecedented Catholic-Muslim meeting in October.
Tauran said the new guidelines are intended to be "a kind of road map for priests, bishops and ordinary brothers and sisters."
Christians, he said "have many things in common with other believers – for example that we all believe in one God, that we profess the same sacredness of life, the necessity of fraternity, the experience of prayer."
But he said while Christians and the Catholic Church are working to recognize and grant consideration to Muslims, societies dominated by Islam are failing completely to reciprocate.
"What is good for me is good for the other, so if it's possible for Muslims to have a mosque in the West, we should have the same in Muslim countries. This is not the case in many countries," he said, specifically citing Saudi Arabia.
One success story has been in Qatar, where he said he recently celebrated mass at a new church in Doha.
"It is a very impressive building. Now we're going to have a school there run by nuns. So this is an example of very good inter-religious dialogue with very concrete effects. In Saudi Arabia that is not the case yet," he said.
Tauran said that there are indications Saudi officials may be willing to meet with Christians and Jews, but talk of actually building a church in Saudi Arabia is premature.
"We don't have precise information about what the [Saudi] king has in mind, but I suppose it will be a gradual evolution, for example the possibility to celebrate services in hotels, in embassies," Tauran said.
The interfaith guidelines are being developed now, he said, because there are a lot of plans and initiatives around the world "and we have to put them into some order."
He reserved much of his criticism for the fact Islam does not treat other religions as Islam is treated.
"The purpose of interreligious dialogue is to know the other better in order to understand the content of his faith, and of course the Holy Father is insisting on freedom of religion, freedom to have a religion and not to have one, and the freedom to change religion. This is something also stated in international law, and of course for the Muslims, it's not the same," he said.
He also noted that disputes in the Holy Land are far from a resolution, largely because of the attitudes of those involved.
"And also Jews and Muslims have more of an 'eye for eye' mentality than one of forgiveness," the interviewer asked.
"Yes," was Tauran's succinct reply.