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Pope Francis sends personal greetings to world's Muslims

August 02, 2013

Pope Francis has sent a message to Islamic world, calling for mutual respect between Christians and Muslims.

The Pope’s message, released by the Vatican on August 2, is timed for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Since 1967, the Vatican has issued an annual greeting to the world’s Muslims on that date.

Ordinarily the Vatican message is released by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. But Pope Francis said that he chose to convey the greetings personally in this, the first year of his pontificate. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, confirmed that this year’s message was the Pope’s “personal initiative.”

Addressing Muslims as his “dear friends,” and making his appeal especially to Islam’s religious leaders, the Pope calls for education to promote mutual respect. He defines those terms explicitly:

“Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides.

Stressing that “we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values,” the Pope says that respect is especially due to religious leaders and to houses of religious worship. “How painful are attacks on one or other of these!” he writes.

In his message the Pope tells the world’s Muslims that he took his name, Francis, to honor “a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called ‘universal brother.’” He also reminds his Islamic audience that in his annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps he emphasized the importance of inter-religious dialogue, and said that he was “thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.” The Pope closes the message with his “my prayerful good wishes, that your lives may glorify the Almighty and give joy to those around you.”

Although it is a break from the usual Vatican practice for the Pope personally to sign the annual message to Muslims, it is not unprecedented. In 1991, Pope John Paul II personally signed a message in which he expressed his anguish for the “beloved Muslim brothers and sisters” who were suffering because of the war in Iraq.


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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Aug. 05, 2013 10:35 AM ET USA

    Would anyone really expect Francis or any modern Pope to issue a call for a Crusade complete with a ringing "Deus vult!" like Urban II did in 1096? Francis has to do what he did, and what he did is no different than his predecessors. However, he said it about as forcefully as he could: mutual respect means just that. It's a two-way street, and I'm glad he mentioned it.

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Aug. 05, 2013 1:53 AM ET USA

    I know that wearing the "shoes of the fisherman" implies a search for peace. But, if the history of the matter is considered only one side has been listening. This seems ever more apparent when what is occurring in most of the "Muslim World" today is considered.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 03, 2013 10:41 PM ET USA

    The Spaniards were repelling an invader. And that was a long time ago. Right now, churches in Africa, the Middle East and other exotic locations like Germany are being burned down by Muslims. It is good to see His Holiness reminding them that respect is 'two-way', since 'interfaith dialogue' has for too long consisted of both sides saying how wonderful Islam is. Well, it isn't. But to each his own.

  • Posted by: chady - Aug. 03, 2013 6:42 AM ET USA

    If a Muslim said 'Happy Christmas or Happy Easter' to you; how would you respond? Remind them about all the atrocities on both sides down through the ages and how one sided it all was. Let us not forget how ruthless the Spanish Christians were towards the Moors. Jesus taught us to be humble and gracious.. if you meet a Muslim today in your town ......wish them 'Ramazan Mubarak' .......'Happy Ramadan'

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Aug. 02, 2013 6:33 PM ET USA

    2 things come to mind: (1)St Francis was eager to convert Muslims, not "dialogue" with them; and (2) Christians are suffering everywhere at the hands of Muslims while Muslims are suffering in few if any places at the hands of Christians. To overlook the fact that Muslims seem to want to kill Christians (as well as Buddhists, Jews, etc.) is to invite disaster upon disaster. In my view, to say Francis' view of Islam is pollyannaish is too charitable. His approach to this heresy invites disaster.