VATICAN CITY, OCT 20, 2006 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present the annual Message to Muslims for the end of the month of Ramadan, published by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Participating in the conference were Cardinal Paul Poupard, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, and Msgr. Felix Anthony Machado, respectively president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and Msgr. Khaled Akashed, bureau chief of the council's office for relations with Islam.
Cardinal Poupard pointed out how his council "sends messages of good will to the followers of the three of the world's major religions: Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims." The council's offices, he said, enjoy regular visits from "Shinoists, Sikhs, ... and exponents of other eastern religions. ... These visits, with reciprocal exchange of expressions of good will, are returned by the pontifical council."
Among the initiatives being promoted by his dicastery, the cardinal mentioned a meeting in Assisi, Italy, to be held from November 4 to 8, of "100 young people, 50 Christians and 50 from other religious traditions and various countries," for the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace. The aim is "to reflect and to exchange ideas, in the hope that the meeting may help young people to be instruments of dialogue, of peace and of hope for the world."
The next to speak was Archbishop Celata who outlined the history of the Messages to Muslims, first published in 1967 by the then Secretariat for non-Christians. It was felt, he said, that Ramadan "represented an appropriate moment for the Holy See dicastery charged with promoting relations with different religious traditions, to present itself to the various Muslim communities, expressing sentiments of friendly participation in their joy."
"Over all these years," he continued, "the Message has attracted growing appreciation, attention and interest. Little by little, the number of Muslim personalities who have responded has increased. ... Of particular significance is the appreciation of bishops, some of whom accompany the release of the Message with a personal letter of their own."
Turning to consider the contents of the message, the archbishop explained that they "are not limited to formal expressions of good will, but seek to establish 'contact,' to create a harmony with the recipients on a 'religious' plane, that is, on the basis of those elements that encouraged the Fathers of Vatican Council II to declare the Church's esteem for Muslims."
The Messages to Muslims also cover "questions of common interest, not infrequently arising from current affairs, ... with the aim of promoting reflection to encourage better understanding of certain fundamental human values, and the contribution of both religions to solving certain difficult situations."
For his part, Msgr. Machado presented a book recently published by the council: "Inter-religious Dialogue. The official teaching of the Catholic Church from the Second Vatican Council to John Paul II (1963-2005)." Over a 1,000 pages long, it has been published in Italian, French and English.
This volume, said the under-secretary of the pontifical council, gives "Catholics easy access to the theological motivations of inter-religious dialogue as explained in the Magisterium," and "offers followers of other faiths the official teaching of the Catholic Church on the various religions of the world."
OP/RAMADAN MESSAGE/POUPARD:CELATA VIS 20061020 (560)