Pope Receives Interreligious Birthday Greetings

Jewish and Muslim Leaders Send Best Wishes

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Jewish and Muslim representatives congratulated Benedict XVI for his 80th birthday.

Giuseppe Laras, president of the Assembly of Rabbis of Italy, said today on Vatican Radio: “My wish is that he may continue on the road begun and intensify his work in favor of dialogue between the members of the various religions, and I am not only thinking of the Jewish religion, but also Islam and many other religions.”

“The wish for the Pope is for him to give a substantial contribution to the cause of pacification and peace among all people,” the rabbi added.

Mario Scialoja, director of the Muslim World League in Italy, said on Vatican Radio that he wished Benedict XVI “a long and happy pontificate, and this wish comes truly with complete sincerity and from the heart.”

Scialoja, who is a convert to Islam, continued: “I believe, from what Benedict XVI has done till now, that he means to follow along the path of dialogue with the religions, in particular with the great religions of Abraham, meaning Islam and Judaism; a dialogue which in today’s world is always more multicultural, multireligious, in evermore mixed societies, not a hoped-for thing, but a necessity.”

Referring to the Pope’s Regensburg speech last September, he said: “Unfortunately, the mass media took a few phrases from the Holy Father’s long and complex speech out of context, which clearly could seem offensive to Islam.”

Scialoja acknowledged: “However this was certainly not the Pontiff’s intention.

“The Holy Father’s travels to Turkey, especially the fact that he went to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and pronounced the invocations from the Kiblah with the imam, which is our traditional direction for prayer, is an extremely strong sign.”

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