1st Catholic-Muslim Conference in Russia Meets

Marks 40th Anniversary of «Nostra Aetate»

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MOSCOW, NOV. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- For the first time in Russia, representatives of the Catholic Church and Islam formally sat down to discuss their differences, and what they have in common.

The meeting, entitled «Islam and Christianity: The Path to Dialogue,» took place Thursday in the main mosque in Moscow, and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration «Nostra Aetate,» on the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions.

The declaration promoted a new understanding between Catholics and Muslim believers, «who worship the one God, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty.» It also highlighted points of dogma that are common to both religions born from the tradition of Abraham.

The Mufti Council of Russia; the Spiritual Management of Muslims of the European part of Russia; the Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, and the St. Andrew’s Theological-Biblical Institute organized the meeting.

Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow pointed out that «in the present prevailing context between the religions of the world, the conference takes on an extraordinary relevance when not only our local but also worldwide society is faced with the call of more dangerous times.»


«Our different religions must respond jointly to these calls in a worthy and appropriate manner,» the Catholic prelate said. «It is our moral obligation and our civic duty.

«It is paradoxical that, on one hand, the modern world becomes ever more secular and lives as if God did not exist, and, on the other, it implores religious leaders: Help us, all our hope is in you!»

The archbishop continued: «Though, unfortunately, the hope in religions to solve world problems has not given the expected results, we are obliged to teach the world, stained by inequality, moral relativism, xenophobia, corruption, interminable bellicose conflicts and terrorism, that reciprocal dialogue and tolerance between different beliefs is the way to cure world problems.»

Ravil Gainutdin, president of the Mufti Council of Russia, said: «Forty years ago the age of dialogue and unity between confessions began.

«For the first time in the history of Christian-Muslim relations, the Church saw in Muslims — not enemies or heretics but participants with equality of rights in relations between humanity.»

According to Gainutdin, «the ‘Nostra Aetate’ declaration laid the basis for reciprocal cooperation between Catholics and Muslims on a world scale.»

Referring to the contribution of the preceding Pope, Gainutdin added: «We Muslims recognize in the person of John Paul II a great religious reformer, who greatly influenced the spread of the idea of the Second Vatican Council, and the dialogue between religions.»

Just in time

Father Igor Byzhanov, secretary for Inter-Christian Relations of the Department of Religious Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that the principles of «Nostra Aetate» are more timely today than ever in the life of Europe, where the recent turmoil in France put into question the peaceful coexistence of the Muslim and Christian cultures, including in Russia.

«The Russian Orthodox Church can give a good example of practical dialogue,» continued Father Byzhanov, adding that in his opinion the dialogue is «optimistic and friendly.»

«If there is love at the base of relations between different religions, then there will be no room for enmity, extremism and terrorism,» he said.

In a declaration signed by the participants at the end of the meeting, the religious leaders observed that «the world will not improve by resolving its problems only in the limits of secularism.»

The participants were convinced that «every man has the right to freedom of conscience and to worship according to his religious beliefs.»

«Extremism is foreign to the religious character, and almighty God does not bless violence and terrorism,» they added. «Understanding, dialogue and tolerance between different beliefs have a way of healing the problems of the world.»

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