|Melkite Greek Catholic
of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Speech of H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III
during the Special Assembly for the Middle East
of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, 10-24 October 2010
From the early period of his pontificate, during his first apostolic visit to Germany and his meeting with young Muslims in Cologne, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has underlined the importance of Islamic-Christian dialogue, in the same way as did Vatican II.The experience of our Churches shows us that this dialogue is necessary and vital, and of course that it is possible, contrary to what some are saying.
This dialogue is taking place on two very distinct levels. There is the properly doctrinal and intellectual level, that can be found for example in the regular meetings of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the University of Al Azharor in the teaching and publications of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) and other study centres in several of our countries. Then there is the existential level, that of the everyday life of our faithful living in Muslim majority countries.The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue is familiar with and encourages the centres, groups, institutions and initiatives of Christian inspiration which practise and favour this dialogue, in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jerusalem, Jordan and Iraq.
It is important to point out, since this fact is virtually unknown outside the Middle East, that there are also dialogue initiatives of Islamic inspiration, mainly in Jordan, but also in Lebanon, Syria, Qatar and Turkey.This existential dialogue is that of everyday life in society, in its different aspects and various dimensions: exchanging good wishes for the major feasts of both religions, neighbourly relation in cities from which formerly completely Christian districts have by now vanished, professional relations and relations in schools and universities attended by Christians and Muslims. This dialogue is going on in all our countries, except Saudi Arabia, the only country in the region where Christianity is still outlawed.
The pursuit of this dialogue is therefore an element of great weight to slow the emigration of Christians. If they disappear from the region, what would become of this dialogue, equally important for preventing a conflict between a predominantly Muslim Middle East and a reputedly Christian West?This Synodal Assembly ought therefore explicitly to encourage the pursuit of this dialogue, at all levels.
19 September 2010
Translation from French: V. Chamberlain