Pope Benedict XVI Friday called for Islam and Christianity to forge a relationship based on “dialogue and mutual esteem,” adding the two faiths could enjoy a “fruitful collaboration.”
Meeting with leaders from Germany’s four-million-strong Muslim community on the second day of his whirlwind trip to his German homeland, he said: “We believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world.”
“If our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem,” added the pontiff, 84.
Christian and Muslims have many things that bind them, which can act as an example to society, Benedict said.
“I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice,” he said.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, welcomed the pope’s comments, saying there was a “big chance that Muslim-Christian dialogue would continue to gather pace” after his remarks.
The pope’s speech was an “important and beneficial sign” for relations between the two communities, added Mazyek.
Benedict’s meeting with Islamic leaders was part of a prevailing theme of his grueling four-day trip: reaching out to other religions.
On Thursday, he held talks with Jewish community leaders, calling for closer ties between the Catholic and Jewish faiths and drawing lessons from the horror of the Nazi Holocaust.
However, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, said there were plenty of topics that still raised hackles among his community.
And later Friday, the pope will lead historic prayers in a hallowed site for German Protestants, reformer Martin Luther’s monastery in the eastern city of Erfurt, where he is expected to stress the need for Christian unity.
On his previous trip to Germany, in 2006, Benedict offended the Muslim community by appearing to link Islam with violence in a speech at Regensburg University.
This time, he said that a “climate of respect and trust has grown up between the Catholic Church and the Muslim communities in Germany.”
Emphasizing the things that unite the two faiths, he said: “Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life.
“At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices.
“The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence,” said the pope.