According to Crux, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said recently Christian-Muslim relations had been a priority for Pope Francis since the beginning of his papacy and would continue to be a priority in 2019, as evidenced by trips scheduled to Islamic countries.
The Catholic Church’s relationship with Islam was particularly strained when Pope Francis inherited the papacy in 2013 following comments made by his predecessor that angered the Muslim world.
According to Crux, in 2006 Benedict XVI gave a 40-minute lecture at the University of Regensburg, in Germany, on the relationship between reason and faith, in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who had been critical of Islam. In the backlash, protests broke out and Christian churches were attacked throughout the Muslim world.
In 2014 Pope Francis began the healing process by inviting his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires and, Omar Abboud, the leader of Buenos Aires’ Islamic community to be part of his formal delegation during his visit to the Holy Land. This led to an immediate thawing in relations between the faiths which the Pope has vowed to continue in 2019.
“The Pope’s attention toward the Arab world is due to the difficulties which today are found in relations between Christianity and Islam, with the tragic drifts of terrorism and religious fundamentalism,” Vatican Secretary of State Parolin said.
“Faced with this situation the Pope from the beginning of his pontificate has sought to promote encounter.”
Secretary Parolin said the Pope was in many ways characterised by a desire to promote encounter against every indifference.
“This is the meaning of the attention he will be giving this year through his trips to the Arab world,” he said.