Dialogue with Islam Takes Preparation, Says Official

European Bishops´ Aides Conclude Meeting in Istanbul

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Meaningful dialogue with Islam requires solid preparation, says a Church official in the wake of a meeting of European episcopate officials.

Secretaries of European episcopates met in Istanbul, Turkey, for a five-day period that ended Monday, to discuss the relation between Islam and Christianity, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The meeting, organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), also raised discussions about the participation of Christian Churches and communities in the process of European integration.

Father Aldo Giordano, CCEE general secretary, told Vatican Radio that the meeting emphasized the need for preparation in order to have a meaningful dialogue with Islam.

«At the intellectual level, of universities, this dialogue takes place quite easily,» he said. «At the national level, the episcopal conferences have organized round tables and platforms for dialogue in recent months. In this period, a certain generalized fear has been vanquished. However, there was evidence of the need to prepare oneself seriously for this dialogue.»

The Istanbul meeting made possible greater understanding between Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and other patriarchs of Eastern Churches.

Regarding Christians´ participation in the construction of a united Europe, discussions touched on the European Convention, which will ultimately shape the constitutional and institutional future of the continent.

Father Giordano said it was suggested «that the Churches try to meet with members of the Convention, in particular with the delegates of their own country in this European institution.»

Referring to the issues the Church wishes to promote in the European Convention, the priest said that two fundamental points were emphasized during the meeting: «the values rooted in Christianity and, another great problem, the topic of religious liberty.»

«Moreover, there was evidence of the need to structure, in a certain sense, the dialogue and collaboration among Churches and political institutions. This dialogue is taking place, but in an informal way,» he added.

Lastly, the CCEE general secretary said the meeting also emphasized three topics dear to Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople: «a Europe founded on Christian values, the contributions of religions to peace,» and «the safeguarding of Creation.»

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