Friday, April 07, 2006

From the Tiber to the Nile

In this week's Tablet, John Borelli at Georgetown gives a more positive interpretation of the recent move of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald from the Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome to the Nunciature in Cairo.
The move from Rome of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald to Egypt as papal nuncio was seen by some as a snub. Not so. The posting of this Arabist is vital for improving Christian-Islamic relations.
Where once there was irregular contact and little rapport between Catholic and Muslim international leaders, there are ongoing relationships with published records. Given the critical importance of Egypt for Middle East peace, its current political unrest, the troubles Copts and other Christian minorities experience every day there, the role of the Arab League, and proximity to Al-Azhar, Fitzgerald’s appointment is nothing less than an endorsement of a job well done. One is hard pressed to find a more complimentary pos-ition for a respected Arabist and scholar of Islam in service to the Church. One veteran of dialogue from the time the conciliar declar- ation on interreligious dialogue, Nostra Aetate, was drafted, expressed delight that Fitzgerald was leaving the Tiber for the Nile where he has many Muslim friends.
And what of the whole notion of Christian-Muslim dialogue itself?
To those who question interreligious dialogues between Christians and Muslims, two quick responses dispel any misunderstanding. The point of interreligious dialogue is not for Christians to compromise their beliefs in the Trinity and the incarnation and for Muslims to give up beliefs based on the Qur’an and the prophecy of Muhammad. Secondly, Christians and Muslims have much to discuss, beginning with the social, political, economic, and historical conditions of the several belligerent relationships in Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, and parts of Europe, reported regularly in the news. Experts and scholars study and discuss these situations, but solutions of Christian-Muslim problems require religious partnership. Comparative theology and spiritual sharing create an environment for religious partnership while deepening understanding and enriching practice.

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