VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message sent by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to Muslims on the occasion of the month of Ramadan.
1. As "Id al-Fitr" comes round again, at the close of the month of Ramadan, I wish to offer to all of you, in whatever part of the world you may be, my very best wishes for a Happy Feast.
2. It has become a tradition for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to send a message to our Muslim brothers and sisters on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. The message has usually been signed by the president of the Pontifical Council. In 1991, on account of the first Gulf War, the good-will message was signed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. He wrote about the need for "a sincere, profound and constant dialogue between believing Catholics and believing Muslims, from which there can arise a strengthened mutual knowledge and trust." These words are surely still relevant today.
3. On April 2 of this year Pope John Paul II completed his earthly life. Many Muslims around the world, with Catholics and other Christians, followed closely the news of the Pope's last illness and his death, and official delegations of Muslims, political and religious leaders from many countries, attended his funeral in Saint Peter's Square. Many had appreciated deeply the Pope's constant efforts on behalf of peace. A Muslim journalist who had had occasion to meet personally with Pope John Paul II wrote: "I am not exaggerating when I say that the death of Pope John Paul II has been a great loss for the Catholic Church and for Christians in general, and also for Christian-Muslim relations in particular. There can be no compensation for this loss other than to follow in his footsteps and to continue in the way that he has traced out with the faith and courage of Assisi in 1986, Assisi where lie the remains of Saint Francis, pioneer among Catholics of Christian-Muslim dialogue."
4. It was faith in God and confidence in humanity that impelled the late Pope to engage in dialogue. He constantly reached out to brothers and sisters of all religions with respect and a desire for collaboration, as had been encouraged by the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration "Nostra Aetate" of which the fortieth anniversary occurs this year. His commitment in this regard was actually rooted in the Gospel, following the example of the Lord Jesus who showed his love and respect for each person, even for those who did not belong to his own people.
5. Following the teaching of the Vatican Council II and continuing on the path taken by Pope John Paul II, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, when receiving the representatives of other religions who attended the celebration for the beginning of his Pontificate, stated: "I am particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international levels. I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole."
Then, making reference to the conflicts, violence and wars present in our world, the Pope emphasized that it is the duty of every one, especially those who profess to belong to a religious tradition, to work for peace, and that "our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
Pope Benedict XVI concluded by saying: "It is therefore imperative to engage in sincere and authentic dialogue, built on respect for the dignity of every human person, created, as we Christians firmly believe, in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) (L'Osservatore Romano, April 26, 2005).
6. Encouraged by these words of the Pope, it is for us to strengthen our engagement in building up good relations among people of different religions, to promote cultural dialogue and to work together for greater justice and enduring peace. Let us, as Christians and Muslims, show that we can live together in true fraternity, striving always to do the will of Merciful God who created humanity to be one family.
Once more I express to you my warmest greetings.
Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald