Vatican Council and Papal Statements on Islam

Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam 107, August 6, 1964
“Then [we refer] to the adorers of God according to the conception of monotheism, the Muslim religion especially, deserving of our admiration for all that is true and good in their worship of God.”

Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964
“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate 3, October 28, 1965
“The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth (Cf. St. Gregory VII, Letter III, 21 to Anazir [Al-Nasir], King of Mauretania PL, 148.451A.), who has spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, his Virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.

“Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.”

Paul VI, address to the Islamic communities of Uganda, August 1, 1969
“In our prayers, We always remember the peoples of Africa. The common belief in the Almighty professed by millions calls down upon this continent the graces of his Providence and love, most of all, peace and unity among all its sons. We feel sure that as representatives of Islam, you join in Our prayers to the Almighty, that he may grant all African believers the desire for pardon and reconciliation so often commended in the Gospels and in the Qur’an.”

John Paul II, address to the Catholic community of Ankara, Turkey, November 29, 1979
After quoting Nostra Aetate 3, as given above, he says:

“My brothers, when I think of this spiritual heritage (Islam) and the value it has for man and for society, its capacity of offering, particularly in the young, guidance for life, filing the gap left by materialism, and giving a reliable foundation to social and juridical organization, I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’ as the Council calls upon us to do (Nostra Aetate 3).

“Faith in God, professed by the spiritual descendants of Abraham–Christians, Muslims and Jews–when it is lived sincerely, when it penetrates life, is a certain foundation of the dignity, brotherhood and freedom of men and a principle of uprightness for moral conduct and life in society. And there is more: as a result of this faith in God the Creator and transcendent, one man finds himself at the summit of creation. He was created, the Bible teaches, ‘in the image and likeness of God’ (Gn 1:27); for the Qur’an, the sacred book of the Muslims, although man is made of dust, ‘God breathed into him his spirit and endowed him with hearing, sight and heart,’ that is, intelligence (Surah 32.8).

“For the Muslims, the universe is destined to be subject to man as the representative of God: the Bible affirms that God ordered man to subdue the earth, but also to ‘till it and keep it’ (Gen. 2:15). As God’s creature, man has rights which cannot be violated, but he is equally bound by the law of good and evil which is based on the order established by God. Thanks to this law, man will never submit to any idol. The Christian keeps to the solemn commandment: ‘You shall keep no other gods before me’ (Ex 20:30). On his side, the Muslim will always say: ‘God is the greatest.’

“I would like to take advantage of this meeting and the opportunity offered to me by the words that St. Peter wrote to your predecessors to invite you to consider every day the deep roots of faith in God in whom also your Muslim fellow citizens believe, in order to draw from this the principle of a collaboration with a view to the progress of man, emulation in good, and the extension of peace and brotherhood in free profession of the faith peculiar to each one.”

John Paul II, address to representatives of Muslims of the Philippines, February 20, 1981
“I deliberately address you as brothers: that is certainly what we are, because we are members of the same human family, whose efforts, whether people realize it or not, tend toward God and the truth that comes from him. But we are especially brothers in God, who created us and whom we are trying to reach, in our own ways, through faith, prayer and worship, through the keeping of his law and through submission to his designs.

“But are you not, above all, brothers of the Christians of this great country, through the bonds of nationality, history, geography, culture, and hope for a better future, a future that you are building together? Is it not right to think that in the Philippines, the Muslims and the Christians are really traveling on the same ship, for better or for worse, and that in the storms that sweep across the world the safety of each individual depends upon the efforts and cooperation of all?...

“I salute all this efforts [of civic and political cooperation] with great satisfaction, and I earnestly encourage their extension. Society cannot bring citizens the happiness that they expect from it unless society itself is built upon dialogue. Dialogue in turn is built upon trust, and trust presupposes not only justice but mercy. Without any doubt, equality and freedom, which are at the foundation of every society, require law and justice. But as I said in a recent letter addressed to the whole Catholic Church, justice by itself is not enough: ‘The equality brought by justice is limited to the realms of objective and extrinsic goods, while love and mercy bring it about that people meet one another in that value which is man himself, with the dignity that is proper to him’ (Dives in Miseridoria, encyclical letter ‘On the Mercy of God’).

“Dear Muslims, my brothers: I would like to add that we Christians, just like you, seek the basis and model of mercy in God himself, the God to whom your Book gives the very beautiful name of al-Rahman, while the Bible calls him al-Rahum, the Merciful One.”

John Paul II, address to the bishops of North Africa on their ad limina visit, Rome, November 23, 1981
“One of the essential characteristics of the life of the Church in Maghreb is, in fact, to be invited to enter upon a constructive Islamic-Christian dialogue. I am anxious to encourage you along this difficult way, where failure may occur, but where hope is even stronger. To maintain it, strong Christian convictions are necessary. More than elsewhere, it is highly desirable that Christians should take part, as you encourage them to do, in a permanent catechesis which completes a biblical renewal course, or more exactly a reading of the Word of God in the Church, with the help of theologians and truly competent spiritual teachers.

“But it can never be said enough that such a dialogue is in the first place a question of friendship; one must know how to give dialogue the time for progress and discernment. That is why it is surrounded by discretion out of a concern to be considerate with regard to the slowness of the evolution of mentalities.

“The seriousness of commitment in this dialogue is measured by that of the witness lived and borne to the values in which one believes, and, for the Christian, to him who is their foundation, Jesus Christ. That is why it conceals the convictions of the one with whom we are speaking, and an unshakeable attachment to one’s faith. This sincere dialogue and this demanding witness involve a part of spiritual abnegation: how can we fail to proclaim the hope that we have received of taking part in this wedding feast of the Lamb at which the whole of mankind will be gathered one day?

“It is also necessary - among other things, in order to preserve this dialogue in its truth - for this deep hope to remain without yielding to any faintheartedness born of uncertain doctrine. Such a spirit is embodied in the first place in disinterested service with a view to fraternity participating in the development of these countries and to sharing the aspirations of their people. I am anxious to stress here the quality of the work carried out by so many of those cooperators in the discretion and dedication, and by those who supported them.”

John Paul II, address to the bishops of Senegal on their ad limina visit, Rome, January 26, 1982
“In this country, which is mainly Muslim, you take care to keep alive in Christians the sense of friendship, a friendship whose sincerity is measured by the effectiveness of the actions it inspires. I do not want to dwell here on this important question of the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, with which I quite recently dealt in my conversations with your confreres in North Africa. But I am anxious to point out the importance of the initiative you have taken in common in this field, in the framework of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa, by creating a special commission to promote such a dialogue.

“I know you are beginning to perceive the fruits of this mutually agreed upon decision; it gradually makes possible a real renewal of mentalities, which facilitates the beneficial transition from ignorance to knowledge of the Muslim faith, from indifference to opening, from rejection to dialogue.”

John Paul II, address to the participants in a symposium on “Holiness in Christianity and in Islam,” Rome, May 9, 1985
“All true holiness comes from God, who is called ‘The Holy One’ in the sacred books of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Your holy Qur’an calls God ‘Al-Quddus,’ as in the verse: ‘He is God, besides whom there is no other, the Sovereign, the Holy, the (source of) Peace’ (Qur’an 59, 23). The prophet Hosea links God’s holiness with his forgiving love for mankind, a love which surpasses our ability to comprehend: ‘I am God, not man; I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy’ (Ho 11:9). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples that holiness consists in assuming, in our human way, the qualities of God’s own holiness which he has revealed to mankind: ‘Be holy, even as your heavenly Father is holy’ (Mt 5:48).

“Thus the Qur’an calls you to uprightness (al-salah), to conscientious devotion (al-taqwa), to goodness (al-husn), and to virtue (al-birr), which is described as believing in God, giving one’s wealth to the needy, freeing captives, being constant in prayer, keeping one’s word, and being patient in times of suffering, hardship and violence (Qur’an 2:177). Similarly, St. Paul stresses the love we must show toward all, and the duty to lead a blameless life in the sight of God: ‘May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints’ (1 Th 3:12-13).”

John Paul II, address to representatives of the Muslims of Belgium, May 19, 1985
“It is a joy for me to have this occasion to meet with you. As the spiritual head of the Catholic Church, I have had many other opportunities both to welcome Muslims in Rome and to visit them in various countries in the course of my travels.

“As Christians and Muslims, we encounter one another in faith in the one God, our Creator and guide, our just and merciful judge. In our daily lives we strive to put into practice God’s will according to the teaching of our respective Scriptures. We believe that God transcends our thoughts and our universe and that his loving presence accompanies us throughout each day. In prayer, we place ourselves in the presence of God to offer him our worship and thanksgiving, to ask forgiveness for our faults, and to seek his help and blessing.

“Today we are meeting in Belgium, a country with a long tradition of hospitality toward persons of diverse religious adherence, whose legislation guarantees the freedom of worship and education. We know that this does not resolve all the problems which are common to the plight of immigrants. Nevertheless, these very difficulties ought to be an incentive to all believers, Christian and Muslim, to come to know one another better, to engage in dialogue in order to find peaceful ways of living together and mutually enriching one another.

“It is a good thing to come to understand each other by learning to accept differences, by overcoming prejudices in mutual respect, and by working together for reconciliation and service to the lowliest. This is a fundamental dialogue which must be practiced in neighborhoods, in places of work, in schools. This is the dialogue which is proper to believers who live together in a modern and pluralistic society.

“It has not been granted to us that we form a single community; this is, rather, a test which has been imposed upon us. In confronting this situation, allow me to repeat the advice of the Apostle Paul: ‘Those who have placed their faith in God should set their hearts on the practice of what is good’ (Tt 3:8). This type of mutual emulation can benefit the whole society, especially those who find themselves most in need of justice, consolation, hope - in a word, those in need of reasons for living. We know that by working together fraternally, we will thus be carrying out the will of God.”

John Paul II , address to the young Muslims of Morocco, August 19, 1985
“Christians and Muslims have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection. . . .

“God asks that we should listen to His voice. He expects from us obedience to His holy will in a free consent of mind and heart.

“It is therefore toward this God that my thought goes and that my heart rises. It is of God himself that, above all, I wish to speak with you; of him, because it is in him that we believe, you Muslims and we Catholics. I wish also to speak with you about human values, which have their basis in God, these values which concern the blossoming of our person, as also that of our families and our societies, as well as that of the international community. The mystery of God - is it not the highest reality from which depends the very meaning which man gives to his life? And is it not the first problem that presents itself to a young person, when he reflects upon the mystery of his own existence and on the values which he intends to choose in order to build his growing personality? . . .

“First of all, I invoke the Most High, the all-powerful God who is our Creator. He is the origin of all life, as he is at the source of all that is good, of all that is beautiful, of all that is holy. . . .

“He made us, us men, and we are from him. His holy law guides our life. It is the light of God which orients our destiny and enlightens our conscience. . . .

“Yes, God asks that we should listen to his voice. He expects from us obedience to his holy will in a free consent of mind and of heart.

“That is why we are accountable before him. It is He, God, who is our judge; He who alone is truly just. We know, however, that his mercy is inseparable from His justice. When man returns to Him, repentant and contrite, after having strayed into the disorder of sin and the works of death, God then reveals Himself as the one who pardons and shows mercy.

“To Him, therefore, our love and our adoration! For His blessing and His mercy, we thank Him, at all times and in all places. . . .

“Man is a spiritual being. We believers know that we do not live in a closed world. We believe in God. We are worshipers of God. We are seekers of God.

“The Catholic Church regards with respect and recognizes the equality of your religious progress, the richness of your spiritual tradition. . . .

“I believe that we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them. Both of us believe in one God, the only God, who is all justice and all mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving, of repentance and of pardon; we believe that God will be a merciful judge to us all at the end of time, and we hope that after the resurrection He will be satisfied with us and we know that we will be satisfied with him.

“Loyalty demands also that we should recognize and respect our differences. Obviously the most fundamental is the view that we hold onto the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. You know that, for Christians, Jesus causes them to enter into an intimate knowledge of the mystery of God and into the filial communion by His gifts, so that they recognize Him and proclaim Him Lord and Savior. 

“Those are the important differences which we can accept with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; this is a mystery about which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us.

“Christians and Muslims, in general we have badly understood each other, and sometimes, in the past, we have opposed and often exhausted each other in polemics and in wars.

“I believe that today, God invites us to change our old practices. We must respect each other, and we must stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.

“With me, you know the reward of spiritual values. Ideologies and slogans cannot satisfy you nor can they solve the problems of your life. Only spiritual and moral values can do it, and they have God at their foundation.

“Dear young people, I wish that you may be able to help in building a world where God may have first place in order to aid and to save mankind. On this path, you are assured, of the esteem and the collaboration of your Catholic brothers and sisters whom I represent among you this evening.”

John Paul II, address to a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims, February 26, 1986
“Both the Bible and the Qur’an teach that mercy and justice are two attributes most characteristic of God. He, ‘the Just One,’ ‘the Merciful, the Compassionate,’ can bring about these same qualities in mankind, if only we open our hearts to allow him to do so. He wants us to be merciful toward each other. Along this path there are new solutions to be found to the political, racial and confessional conflicts which have plagued the human family throughout history.

“You come from a city that has so much meaning for all of us: Jews, Christians and Muslims. Jerusalem, the city of David, the place of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the site of Muhammad’s night journey to God: this city must be a living symbol that God’s will for us is to live in peace and mutual respect!

“I wish to encourage you in your efforts. In today’s world, it is more important than ever that people of faith place at the service of humanity their religious conviction, founded on the daily practice of listening to God’s message and encountering him in prayerful worship. My prayers and hopes are with you as you pursue your reflection on the God of mercy and justice, the God of peace and reconciliation!”

John Paul II, address to Christians (and others) in Bangladesh, November 19, 1986
“You must try to show your Muslim brethren and the followers of other religious traditions that your Christian faith, far from weakening your sense of pride in your homeland and your love for her, helps you to prize and respect the culture and heritage of Bangladesh. It inspires you to face the challenges of the present day with love and responsibility. . . .

“The Catholic Church is committed to a path of dialogue and collaboration with the men and women of goodwill of every religious tradition. We have many spiritual resources in common which we must share with one another as we work for a more human world. Young people especially know how to be open with each other and they want a world in which all the basic freedoms, including the freedom of religious belief, will be respected.

“Sometimes Christians and Muslims fear and distrust one another as a result of past misunderstanding and conflict. This is also true in Bangladesh. Everyone, especially the young, must learn to always respect one another’s religious beliefs and to defend freedom of religion, which is the right of every human being.”

John Paul II, address to the delegation of the World Islamic Call Society, Rome, 15 January 1990
“The topic of your discussion is a timely one. Since we are believers in God - who is goodness and perfection - all our activities must reflect the holy and upright nature of the one whom we worship and seek to obey. For this reason, also in the works of mission and da’wah, our action must be founded upon a respect for the inalienable dignity and freedom of the human person created and loved by God. Both Christians and Muslims are called to defend the inviolable right of each individual to freedom of religious belief and practice. There have been in the past, and there continue to be in the present, unfortunate instances of misunderstanding, intolerance and conflict between Christians and Muslims, especially in circumstances where either Muslims or Christians are a minority or are guest workers in a given country. It is our challenge as religious leaders to find ways to overcome such difficulties in a spirit of justice, brotherhood and mutual respect. Hence, by considering the proper means of carrying out mission and da’wah you are dealing with an issue which is important both for religious and for social harmony.

“You have also been addressing the difficulties faced today by those who believe in God in their efforts to proclaim his presence and his will for mankind. As believers, we do not deny or reject any of the real benefits which modern developments have brought, but we are convinced nevertheless that without reference to God modern society is unable to lead men and women to the goal for which they have been created. It is here too that Christians and Muslims can work together, bearing witness before modern civilization to the divine presence and loving Providence which guide our steps. Together we can proclaim that he who has made us has called us to live in harmony and justice. May the blessing of the Most High accompany you in your endeavors on behalf of dialogue and peace.”

John Paul II, Message to the faithful of Islam at the end of the month of Ramadan, April 3, 1991
“To all Muslims throughout the world, I wish to express the readiness of the Catholic Church to work together with you and all the people of good will to aid the victims of the war and to build structures of a lasting peace not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. This cooperation in solidarity towards the most afflicted can form the concrete basis for a sincere, profound and constant dialogue between believing Catholics and believing Muslims, from which there can arise a strengthened mutual knowledge and trust, and the assurance that each one everywhere will be able to profess freely and authentically his or her own faith.

“Injustice, oppression, aggression, greed, failure to forgive, desire for revenge, and unwillingness to enter into dialogue and negotiate: these are merely some of the factors which lead people to depart from the way in which God desires us to live on this planet. We must all learn to recognize these elements in our own lives and societies, and find ways to overcome them. Only when individuals and groups undertake this education for peace can we build a fraternal and united world, freed from war and violence.

“I close my greeting to you with the words of one of my predecessors, Pope Gregory VII who in 1076 wrote to Al-Nasir, the Muslim Ruler of Bijaya, present day Algeria: ‘Almighty God, who wishes that all should be saved and none lost, approves nothing in so much as that after loving Him one should love his fellow man, and that one should not do to others, what one does not want done to oneself. You and we owe this charity to ourselves especially because we believe in and confess one God, admittedly, in a different way, and daily praise and venerate him, the creator of the world and ruler of this world.’

“These words, written almost a thousand years ago, express my feelings to you today as you celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast. May the Most High God fill us with all His merciful love and peace.”

John Paul II, address to Islamic leaders of Senegal, Dakar, February 22, 1992
“It is natural that believers in God should meet in friendship and sharing. Christians and Muslims, together with the followers of the Jewish religion, belong to what can be called ‘the tradition of Abraham.’ In our respective traditions Abraham is called ‘the intimate friend of God’ (in Arabic, Al-Khalil). He receives this title because of his flawless faith in God. . . .

“As two religious communities who strive to submit ourselves without reserve to the will of God, we Christians and Muslims should live together in peace, friendship and cooperation. I am happy to note that, since the arrival of the first Christians in this land, the people of Senegal have given the world a good example of this sharing life.

“In May 1991, in a joint message to their fellow Christians, the Catholic bishops of Senegal called attention to the ‘real efforts at understanding and dialogue between Christians and Muslims, the meeting between religious leaders’ which have been undertaken in your country. They noted that the young people have worked together to build cemeteries, mosques and churches; that school children engage in healthy emulation to make their schools places of peace, forgiveness and fraternity; that adults work together to improve the life of the community spirit of the country. I would like to support and encourage all these efforts at building a harmonious society because I am convinced that this is the way of God. Our Creator and our final judge desires that we live together. Our God is a God of peace, who desires peace among those who live according to His commandments. Our God is the holy God who desires that those who call upon Him live in ways that are holy and upright. He is a God of dialogue who has been engaged from the very beginning of history in a dialogue of salvation with the humanity which He created. This dialogue continues in the present day, and will go on until the end of time.

“We Christians and Muslims must be people of dialogue. As I have often said, and as the bishops of Senegal have repeated, this commitment to dialogue means, first of all, ‘a dialogue of life’, a positive acceptance, interaction and cooperation by which we bear active witness, as believers, to the ideals to which God has called us.”

John Paul II, to H. E. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Cairo, February 24, 2000
“Thank you for your kind words. Permit me to continue with your ideas. God created human beings, man and woman, and gave to them the world, the earth to cultivate. There is a strict connection between religions, religious faith and culture. Islam is a religion. Christianity is a religion. Islam has become also a culture. Christianity has become also a culture. So it is very important to meet personalities representing Islamic culture in Egypt.

“I express my great gratitude for this opportunity and I greet all the eminent scholars gathered here. I am convinced that the future of the world depends on the various cultures and on interreligious dialogue. For it is as St. Thomas Aquinas said: ‘Genus humanum arte et ratione vivit.’ The life of the human race consists in culture and the future of the human race consists in culture. I thank your university, the biggest centre of Islamic culture. I thank those who are developing Islamic culture and I am grateful for what you are doing to maintain the dialogue with Christian culture. All this I say in the name of the future of our communities, not only of our communities but also of the nations and of the humanity represented in Islam and in Christianity. Thank you very much.”

John Paul II, at the International Airport, Amman, Jordan, March 20, 2000
“Your Majesty, I know how deeply concerned you are for peace in your own land and in the entire region, and how important it is to you that all Jordanians—Muslims and Christians—should consider themselves as one people and one family. In this area of the world there are grave and urgent issues of justice, of the rights of peoples and nations, which have to be resolved for the good of all concerned and as a condition for lasting peace. No matter how difficult, no matter how long, the process of seeking peace must continue. Without peace, there can be no authentic development for this region, no better life for its peoples, no brighter future for its children. That is why Jordan’s proven commitment to securing the conditions necessary for peace is so important and praiseworthy.

“Building a future of peace requires an ever more mature understanding and ever more practical cooperation among the peoples who acknowledge the one true, indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among the highest values. I earnestly hope that my visit will strengthen the already fruitful Christian-Muslim dialogue which is being conducted in Jordan, particularly through the Royal Interfaith Institute.”

John Paul II, to the ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, September 7, 2000
“I have an especially warm recollection of my meeting with Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi. We both expressed the wish for a new era of religious and cultural dialogue between Islam and Christianity. It is in this context, Mr. Ambassador, that I am particularly pleased that you have spoken of Egypt as a land where unity and harmony are greatly valued and where differences of religion are seen not as barriers but as a means of mutual enrichment in rendering service to the nation. I trust most sincerely that this will always be the case, and that the difficulties that have arisen from time to time will be overcome, especially in view of the widespread willingness and positive conditions for interreligious dialogue and cooperation which can be found in Egypt.

“In a world deeply marked by violence, it is bitterly ironic that even now some of the worst conflicts are between believers who worship the one God, who look to Abraham as a holy patriarch and who seek to follow the Law of Sinai. Each act of violence makes it more urgent for Muslims and Christians everywhere to recognize the things we have in common, to bear witness that we are all creatures of the one merciful God, and to agree once and for all that recourse to violence in the name of religion is completely unacceptable. Especially when religious identity coincides with cultural and ethnic identity it is a solemn duty of believers to ensure that religious sentiment is not used as an excuse for hatred and conflict. Religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination; it seeks the good of everyone and therefore ought to be a stimulus for solidarity and harmony between individuals and among peoples”

John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 55, January 6, 2001
“It is in this context (of openness to God’s grace) also that we should consider the great challenge of interreligious dialogue to which we shall still be committed in the new millennium, in fidelity to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (Cf. Second Vatican Council, declaration Nostra Aetate). . . . This dialogue must continue. In the climate of increased cultural and religious pluralism which is expected to mark the society of the new millennium, it is obvious that this dialogue will be especially important in establishing a sure basis for peace and warding off the dread specter of those wars of religion which have so often bloodied human history. The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace.”

John Paul II, on his arrival in Syria, May 5, 2001
“I am thinking too of the great cultural influence of Syrian Islam, which under the Umayyad caliphs reached the farthest shores of the Mediterranean. Today, in a world that is increasingly complex and interdependent, there is a need for a new spirit of dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. Together we acknowledge the one indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. Together we must proclaim to the world that the name of the one God is ‘a name of peace and a summons to peace’ (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 55)!”

John Paul II, address on his Visit to the Umayyad Great Mosque, May 6, 2001
As-salamu ‘alaikum!
“I give heartfelt praise to almighty God for the grace of this meeting. I am most grateful for your warm welcome in the tradition of hospitality so cherished by the people of this region. I thank especially the minister of the Waqf and the grand mufti for their gracious greetings, which put into words the great yearning for peace which fills the hearts of all people of good will. My jubilee pilgrimage has been marked by important meetings with Muslim leaders in Cairo and Jerusalem, and now I am deeply moved to be your guest here in the great Umayyad mosque, so rich in religious history. Your land is dear to Christians: Here our religion has known vital moments of its growth and doctrinal development, and here are found Christian communities which have lived in peace and harmony with their Muslim neighbors for many centuries. 

“We are meeting close to what both Christians and Muslims regard as the tomb of John the Baptist, known as Yahya in the Muslim tradition. The son of Zechariah is a figure of prime importance in the history of Christianity, for he was the precursor who prepared the way for Christ. John’s life, wholly dedicated to God, was crowned by martyrdom. May his witness enlighten all who venerate his memory here, so that they - and we too - may understand that life’s great task is to seek God’s truth and justice. 

“The fact that we are meeting in this renowned place of prayer reminds us that man is a spiritual being, called to acknowledge and respect the absolute priority of God in all things. Christians and Muslims agree that the encounter with God in prayer is the necessary nourishment of our souls, without which our hearts wither and our will no longer strives for good but succumbs to evil.

“Both Muslims and Christians prize their places of prayer as oases where they meet the all-merciful God on the journey to eternal life and where they meet their brothers and sisters in the bond of religion. When, on the occasion of weddings or funerals or other celebrations, Christians and Muslims remain in silent respect at the other’s prayer, they bear witness to what unites them without disguising or denying the things that separate.

“It is in mosques and churches that the Muslim and Christian communities shape their religious identity, and it is there that the young receive a significant part of their religious education. What sense of identity is instilled in young Christians and young Muslims in our churches and mosques? It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.

“I truly hope that our meeting today in the Umayyad mosque will signal our determination to advance interreligious dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam. This dialogue has gained momentum in recent decades; and today we can be grateful for the road we have traveled together so far. At the highest level, the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue represents the Catholic Church in this task. For more than 30 years the council has sent a message to Muslims on the occasion of ‘Id al-Fitr at the close of Ramadan, and I am very happy that this gesture has been welcomed by many Muslims as a sign of growing friendship between us. In recent years the council has established a liaison committee with international Islamic organizations and also with al-Athar in Egypt, which I had the pleasure of visiting last year.

“It is important that Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological questions together in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each others’ religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will surely lead at the practical level to a new way of presenting our two religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in partnership for the good of the human family.

“Interreligious dialogue is most effective when it springs from the experience of ‘living with each other’ from day to day within the same community and culture. In Syria, Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for centuries, and a rich dialogue of life has gone on unceasingly. Every individual and every family knows moments of harmony and other moments when dialogue has broken down. The positive experiences must strengthen our communities in the hope of peace; and the negative experiences should not be allowed to undermine that hope. For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and offer each other forgiveness. Jesus teaches us that we must pardon others’ offenses if God is to pardon us our sins (cf. Mt. 6:14).

“As members of the one human family and as believers, we have obligations to the common good, to justice and to solidarity. Interreligious dialogue will lead to many forms of cooperation, especially in responding to the duty to care for the poor and weak. These are the signs that our worship of God is genuine.

“As we make our way through life toward our heavenly destiny, Christians feel the company of Mary, the mother of Jesus; and Islam too pays tribute to Mary and hails her as ‘chosen above the women of the world’ (Qur’an, 3:42). The virgin of Nazareth, the Lady of Saydnâya, has taught us that God protects the humble and “scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Lk. 1:51). May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the one, merciful God be praise and glory forever. Amen.”

John Paul II, Post 9/11 Appeal for Peace in the World, Astana, Kazakhstan, September 23, 2001
“From this city, from Kazakhstan, a country that is an example of harmony between men and women of different origins and beliefs, I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, to work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows in justice and solidarity. We must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions. Religion must never be used as a reason for conflict.

“From this place, I invite both Christians and Muslims to raise an intense prayer to the One, Almighty God whose children we all are, that the supreme good of peace may reign in the world. May people everywhere, strengthened by divine wisdom, work for a civilization of love, in which there is no room for hatred, discrimination or violence.

“With all my heart I beg God to keep the world in peace. Amen.”

John Paul II, address before the Angelus, November 18, 2001
“We know that prayer acquires power if it is joined with fasting and almsgiving. The Old Testament taught this, and from the earliest centuries Christians have accepted and applied this lesson, especially at the times of Advent and Lent. For their part, the Muslim faithful have just begun Ramadan, a month dedicated to fasting and prayer. Soon, we Christians will begin Advent, to prepare ourselves in prayer, for the celebration of Christmas, the day of the birth of “the Prince of Peace.’

“At this appropriate time, I ask Catholics to make next 14 December [the last Friday of Ramadan and the third Friday of Advent] a day of fasting, to pray fervently to God to grant to the world stable peace based on justice, and make it possible to find adequate solutions to the many conflicts that trouble the world. May what is saved by fasting be put at the disposal of the poor, especially those who at present suffer the consequences of terrorism and war. 

“I would also like to announce that it is my intention to invite the representatives of the world religions to come to Assisi on 24 January 2002, to pray for the overcoming of opposition and the promotion of authentic peace. In particular, we wish to bring Christians and Muslims together to proclaim to the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence. In this historic moment, humanity needs to see gestures of peace and to hear words of hope. 

“As I said 15 years ago, when announcing the meeting of prayer for peace, which was held in Assisi the following October: ‘It is urgent that a common invocation rise to heaven from earth, to beg from Almighty God, in whose hands is the destiny of the world, the great gift of peace, the necessary condition for every serious endeavor at the service of humanity’s real progress’.”