Monday, June 22, 2009
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VENICE, Italy (CNS) -- Relations with Muslims have improved significantly in recent years, but problems remain on issues like conversion and freedom of worship, the Vatican's top interreligious dialogue official said.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said one of the biggest challenges was to make sure that the greater openness shown by Muslim leaders -- the "elites" involved in dialogue -- filters down to the average Muslim in the street.
So far, that does not seem to have happened, the cardinal told a conference in Venice June 22.
Cardinal Tauran recounted an episode in Jordan that occurred a week before Pope Benedict XVI arrived to a warm official welcome from government and Islamic officials. A Christian woman fell on a street in Amman and asked passers-by for help; two Muslim women on the scene walked away, saying they could not assist an infidel, he said.
"I don't think that's the reaction of a good Muslim. But this is the reality on the street. On one hand we have the elites, on the other the masses," Cardinal Tauran said.
The cardinal said that at the official level the Vatican's various dialogues with Muslims have attained "a climate of greater trust."
"On the part of our dialogue partners can be seen a desire to give a more positive image of Islam," he said. Christian and Muslim leaders also are increasingly aware that cooperation is needed to remedy secular societies' "deafness" to God and to help build peace in the world, he said.