Monday, May 28, 2007

Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue to be resotred ...

Just saw this in my inbox, under the somewhat misleading headline, Vatican reaches out to Islam
* Main Catholic-Islam conduit restored
* Special council to be reinstated
* Decision reversal 'rare' for Vatican

THE Vatican would restore the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, its main conduit for relations with the Muslim world, its secretary of state said.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI merged the department with the Vatican's culture ministry and removed its president, archbishop Michael Fitzgerald.

Archbishop Fitzgerald, a Briton who is one of the Catholic Church's most experienced figures in dialogue with Islam, was sent to Cairo in what was widely seen as a demotion.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told La Stampa daily the council would now be reinstated as a department in its own right.

“The change highlights the importance of inter-religious dialogue,” he said.
Of course the story reeks of half-truths. The purpose of the Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue was not just dialogue with Islam, though that was certainly a part of its work. The merging of IRD with the Council for Culture (not at all the same as a "culture ministry" !!) certainly elicited a lot of discussion but the Holy Father continued to reiterate the importance of inter-religious dialogue, as he has consistently done throughout his career, both before and after his election to the Papacy. In fact, some (John Allen) argued that moving Archbishop Fitzgerald to Cairo may in fact be a way to promote dialogue, given the importance of Cairo and the al-Azhar university there in the Muslim world.
And did the merger of the two councils have anything at all to do with the Regensburg flap?

Of course, it really is interesting that IRD is being restored as a Council in its own right. I wonder what the thinking is behind that one, and I'm sure there will be some cogent analysis of this from responsible quarters soon.

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