Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 06:02 am
Not only is there a good deal in common between Muslims and Christians, but Catholics are called to respect and work together with those who practice the Muslim faith in recognition of truth and goodness they do possess, said Islam scholar Fr. Thomas Michel.
Fr. Michel, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology and worked under Pope John Paul II as head of the Vatican Office for Relations with Muslims, told CNA that Benedict XVI, like both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, have all repeated the same message regarding Muslims – that of the Second Vatican Council.
“The document Nostrae aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”
The major “common point” between Christianity and Islam, Fr. Michel said, is that both faiths believe in the existence of only one God, and that both are trying to do what this one God wants.
Therefore, “how can we be enemies with people who are also, like us, trying to worship the one God?” he said. “Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we've seen that part of our work as Christians is to be in dialogue with people of other faiths.”
“And this means not only talking to them and listening to them, but it also means cooperating with them, working together with them for good.”
This dialogue, Fr. Michel emphasized, isn’t just about making peace with each other, although that is important, but is about “the kind of world we live in” and how that makes it important that we all come to know each other better.
Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past, and “what we have to do now is work together for the common good.”