Scholar Notes Positive Response to Regensburg Speech

Says There Is Need for Reflection on Islamic-Christian Dialogue

ROME, JAN. 30, 2007 ( Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address has also had soothing effects, says Father Maurice Borrmans, an authority on Islam.

“The address has led Muslim intellectuals to draw lines of renewal in Muslim theology,” Father Borrmans said.

Father Borrmans, of the Missionaries of Africa, is author of the book “Guidelines for Dialogue between Christians and Muslims," and until recently, the editor of the journal “Islamochristiana,” of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.

On Thursday, Father Borrmans attended a meeting at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies on reactions to Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg.

Four reactions

The priest considers as significant four responses to the Regensburg lecture.

The first is the open letter of the ulemas and muftis of the Al-al-Bayt Foundation of Amman, on Oct. 15.

The second is the commentary of Libyan Muslim intellectual Aref Alas Nayed.

The third is the personal reflection of the director of the Lebanese review Ijtihad.

The fourth is the open letter of the co-chairman of the Islamic-Christian Research Group, Hmida Ennaifer.

According to Father Borrmans, these four responses underline the need for a serious and scientific in-depth reflection on some essential aspects for Islamic-Christian dialogue.

He explained: “The lessons that must be drawn from this misunderstanding are many. One is that the theologian who became Pope saw how his address took on a universal dimension.

“Not only the Pope, but all religious leaders, today cannot think only of their ‘own’ faithful but of all sensibilities, also those of nonbelievers.”

With his “successful trip to Turkey” and with the dialogue undertaken with Islam, “the Holy Father has brought the misunderstanding of Regensburg to its correct dimension,” Father Borrmans added.

Cultural sensibilities

Father Borrmans explained that the Regensburg address was directed “to colleagues and former students and was not setting out a global plan for all the religions of the world.”

“The quotation about Manuel Paleologo made some think that it was an international address, but the Pope did what we professors do, he mentioned a quotation from one of the latest books he had read on the subject,” the priest continued.

Father Borrmans stated that today “cultural sensibilities are very different” and he mentioned the case of the caricatures of Mohammed. “A Parisian joke is not the same as an Iraqi or Iranian joke.”

“Our task as theologians and philosophers is to form journalists, professors and preachers: Each one has his responsibility,” he added.

Father Borrmans continued: “We see emerging from this address that theological research has the exigencies of reason: Faith is not irrational, and this is what the Pope wished to teach, having as a background the West’s positivism.

“I repeat: the Pope was thinking of Christian Europe which is forgetting its roots; he was not thinking of a worldwide intercultural scene.”

According to Father Borrmans, “An urgent need exists to take up dialogue again and address the dignity of man, the meaning of history, and the sacredness of creation.”

The priest, who has also been a professor in North Africa and the Persian Gulf, counseled “prudence, wisdom and patience” in dialogue, and stressed that the discourse on the reasonableness of the faith is crucial.

He said he also hopes there will be “many studies of comparative mysticism because, when all is said and done, what is important is the experience of God.”

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