Catholic-Muslim Panel Urges "Self-Criticism"

And Calls for Less Stereotyping

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ROME, FEB. 25, 2004 ( Vatican and Muslim representatives meeting in Rome agreed on the need to engage in «self-criticism and to struggle against stereotypes and generalizations.»

«Religious persons must be more careful not to generalize,» said Sheikh Fawzi Fadel al-Zafzaf, president of the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheist Religions, and a co-president of the Catholic-Islamic Joint Committee.

«We need the help of the media to simplify and to give serious presentations of the other religions,» added British Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, his Catholic counterpart on the committee. The representatives met Tuesday at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies.

The public working session of the Executive Committee of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheist Religions heard four talks.

Two of the speakers were Catholics: Archbishop Fitzgerald, the council’s president, and Youssef Kamal El-Hage, professor at Notre Dame of Lebanon University and a consultor of the council.

The other two speakers were Muslims: Fawzi Al-Zafzaf and Ali El-Samman, vice president of the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee and a member of the Islamic-Christian Dialogue Association.

Archbishop Fitzgerald made a historical review of the committee, which was established officially in 1998.

Kamal El-Hage lamented that «self-criticism is absent between Christians and Muslims and it is a real obstacle for dialogue.» However, he did mention the most significant reflections of the magisterium on Islam, beginning with the Second Vatican Council’s declaration «Nostra Aetate.»

No. 3 of the declaration affirms that the «Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth.» The professor underlined John Paul II’s special dedication to Islam.

Al-Zafzaf, president of the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee, said in Arabic that «it is necessary to distinguish between the sources of religions and the particular conduct of their followers.»

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