This morning the Vatican news service published the Final Declaration of Catholic-Muslim Forum:
FINAL DECLARATION OF CATHOLIC-MUSLIM FORUM
VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2008 (VIS) – Made public yesterday afternoon was the final declaration of participants in the First Seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum, which took place in Rome from 4 to 6 November on the theme: “Love of God, Love of Neighbour”.
Each of the two sides in the meeting was represented by 24 participants and five advisers who discussed the two great themes of “Theological and Spiritual Foundations” and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect”. Points of “similarity and of diversity emerged, reflecting the distinctive specific genius of the two religions” the English-language declaration says.
- “For Christians the source and example of love of God and neighbour is the love of Christ for His Father, for humanity and for each person” reads the first of the fifteen points of the declaration. “Love of neighbour cannot be separated from love of God, because it is an expression of our love for God. … Grounded in Christ’s sacrificial love, Christian love is forgiving and excludes no-one; it therefore also includes one’s enemies”.
“For Muslims … love is a timeless transcendent power which guides and transforms human mutual regard. This love, as indicated by the Holy and Beloved Prophet Muhammad, is prior to the human love for the One True God”.
- “Human life is a most precious gift of God to each person. It should therefore be preserved and honoured in all its stages”.
- Human dignity is derived from the fact that every human person is created by a loving God and has been endowed with the gifts of reason and free will, and therefore enabled to love God and others. On the firm basis of these principles, the person requires the respect of his or her original dignity and his or her human vocation. Therefore, he or she is entitled to full recognition of his or her identity and freedom by individuals, communities and governments, supported by civil legislation that assures equal rights and full citizenship.
- “We affirm that God’s creation of humanity has two great aspects: the male and the female human person, and we commit ourselves jointly to ensuring that human dignity and respect are extended on an equal basis to both men and women.
- “Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public.
- “Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.
- “As Catholic and Muslim believers, we are aware of the summons and imperative to bear witness to the transcendent dimension of life, through a spirituality nourished by prayer, in a world which is becoming more and more secularised and materialistic.
- “We affirm that no religion and its followers should be excluded from society. Each should be able to make its indispensable contribution to the good of society, especially in service to the most needy.
- “We recognise that God’s creation in its plurality of cultures, civilisations, languages and peoples is a source of richness and should therefore never become a cause of tension and conflict.
- “We are convinced that Catholics and Muslims have the duty to provide a sound education in human, civic, religious and moral values for their respective members and to promote accurate information about each other’s religions.
- “We profess that Catholics and Muslims are called to be instruments of love and harmony among believers, and for humanity as a whole, renouncing any oppression, aggressive violence and terrorism, especially that committed in the name of religion, and upholding the principle of justice for all.
- “We call upon believers to work for an ethical financial system in which the regulatory mechanisms consider the situation of the poor and disadvantaged, both as individuals, and as indebted nations. We call upon the privileged of the world to consider the plight of those afflicted most severely by the current crisis in food production and distribution, and ask religious believers of all denominations and all people of good will to work together to alleviate the suffering of the hungry, and to eliminate its causes.
- “Young people are the future of religious communities and of societies as a whole. Increasingly, they will be living in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. It is essential that they be well formed in their own religious traditions and well informed about other cultures and religions.
- “We have agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a permanent Catholic-Muslim committee to co-ordinate responses to conflicts and other emergency situations.
- “We look forward to the second seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum to be convened in approximately two years in a Muslim-majority country yet to be determined”.
The declaration concludes by affirming that all the participants “expressed satisfaction with the results of the seminar and their expectation for further productive dialogue”.
OP/CATHOLIC MUSLIM DECLARATION/… VIS 081107 (860)
My preliminary “Presbyterian” reflection is that point number 1 is the only one which dares to approach the ethical questions from a theological standpoint; the rest of the points appear merely sweet-talking, political-ethical rhetoric, a collective statement saying, “we both believe in being nice one to another.”
Whatever implications may have been implied in point 1 are ignored throughout the remaining 14 points. From a Christian perspective, are we supposed to understand from this statement, for example, that trinitarianism has no significant role in Christian ethics other than in characterizing its transcendent foundation? Are we to conclude further that having Christ, the God-man, as “source” and “goal” yields no practical ethical difference than were we to believe in an impersonal, transcendent power which is revealed by a non-God-man?
That theological differences between Christian and Muslim ethics are hardly approached in this statement is somewhat baffling if the stated purpose of the forum was to have a theological dialog concerning “Theological and Spiritual Foundations.”