Blessed Pope John Paul’s legacy to dialogue and reconciliation
Following increased tensions over the death of Osama Bin Laden, one of Blessed Pope John Paul’s closest advisors on interfaith issues examines the former pontiff’s commitment to dialogue with the Muslim world. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald was ordained bishop by Pope John Paul in 1992 and worked closely with him as secretary and later president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Today he serves as apostolic nuncio to Egypt and as Vatican representative to the Cairo based Arab League. He talks to Philippa Hitchen about his personal memories, about the ongoing work of building trust between peoples of different faiths and about Egypt’s role in the Middle East conflict….
"Right from (Pope John Paul's) first encyclical Redemptor Hominis he opens the perspective of relations with people of other religions, that the mission of the Church is to all people. That doesn't necessarily mean - according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council - that all have to become Christians. No-one could accuse John Paul II of being an unfervant Christian, he was a missionary for the Church, but at the same time he had this great respect for people of other religions - and they returned that respect."
"I would hope that there will be a resumption of dialouge (with Al-Azhar)...I think there's a need for greater understanding, perhaps on both sides. Recently I met with Sheikh Al-Azhar but there wasn't any progess at that meeting. What I did say was that even if there is no dialogue with the Holy See, I would hope that dialogue could continue with Christians in Egypt, not only the Coptic Orthodox but also with the Catholics there."
"There are elements in Egyptian society that are in contact with Al-Qaeda - some of the leaders are Egyptians. I don't think the death of Bin Laden will end Al-Qaeda activities as they are more of a conglomeration of people rather than an organised movement. Let us hope there will not be other attacks, bombs and violence - the country depends heavily on tourism and if there is violence the tourists don't come."