Thoughts On Dialogue With Muslims
What’s the crisis? Use force against Islamists and keep them out of the country, or …. What?
Archbishop of Mosul (Nineveh): "Our sufferings today are a prelude of those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," said the Archbishop of Mosul in an interview with Corriere della Sera. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
"Please try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims.
He warns us, "Also you are in danger. You must take strong an courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles.
The archbishop continues: "You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
Pope Francis: EG
EG: #252. Our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance, since they are now significantly present in many traditionally Christian countries, where they can freely worship and become fully a part of society. We must never forget that they “profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day”.198 The sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings; Jesus and Mary receive profound veneration and it is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services. Many of them also have a deep conviction that their life, in its entirety, is from God and for God. They also acknowledge the need to respond to God with an ethical commitment and with mercy to- wards those most in need.
#253. In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential for all involved, not only so that they can be solidly and joyfully grounded in their own identity, but so that they can also acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs. We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Chris- tians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.
Thesis: “What is essential is that reason shut in on itself does not remain reasonable or rational… Reason needs revelation in order to be able to be effective as reason.”
To go right to the point, Christian faith as the supreme act of moral self-transcendence, i.e. as a moral action, is accompanied by a consciousness of the good. As John Paul II quoted Christ in “Veritatis Splendor,” “No one is good but God alone” (Mk. 10, 18), and therefore there is knowledge of reality only in the experience of Christ who is “the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature” through whom and for whom “all things have been created” and in whom “all things hold together.” (Col. 1, 15-17). That is, the act of Christian faith is the act that puts us supremely in contact with reality, and in so doing, gives us full use of our reason, and without which we do not and cannot. That is, we become reality when we go out of ourselves and become like Christ Who is out of Himself. In that very act, we experience and become conscious of what is really real. And it turns out to be an experience of being “good,” and this in turn generates hope and joy. There is a remark of Joseph Ratzinger that always stands out in my mind for the radical nature of it: “What is essential is that reason shut in on itself does not remain reasonable or rational… Reason needs revelation in order to be able to be effective as reason.”
Let me be clearer. Faith does not give us primarily clear ideas. It is an action that is the giving of our entire selves – even to the point of martyrdom. What we do in Christian faith is to master ourselves, get possession of ourselves and go out of ourselves such as to be “like” Christ. That going out of self is an action sacramentally driven by Baptism which through a lifetime of struggle renders us to be “other Christs.” That is realism.
It is the grounding experience of becoming reasonable.
What is the real state of affairs? Pope Francis speaks of openness to Islam. John Paul II in “Crossing the
Threshold of Hope” speaks the same. The Muslims believe in the Transcendent God. But this
Transcendent God is so transcendent that He could never become man and immanent as one of us.
“Didn’t Christ perhaps become ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1,
23)? Precisely because He called His Father, because He revealed Him so openly in Himself, He
could not but elicit the impression that it was too much… Man was no longer able to tolerate
such closeness, and thus the protests began. This great protest has precise names – first it is
called the Synagogue, and then Islam. Neither can accept a God who is so human. ‘It is not
suitable to speak of God in this way.’ They protest. ‘He must remain absolute transcendent; He
must remain pure Majesty, Majesty full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the
faults of His own creatures, for their sins.’”1
God, they say, is so great that He cannot become man. He cannot become one of us. But the
most astounding event that could possibly be imagined is that God, in fact, became man. The Creator of
all things has become part of His own creation. The Whole is in the part. The Eternal is in the temporal.
The Necessary is in the contingent. The ontological ramifications of this event are immense. It means
that the God Who has revealed Himself as Three Persons has taken on a human created nature as the
Second Person and lived out His Personal Divinity as man. This changes the very meaning of reality since
it cannot be other than that Christ is the absolute center and meaning of all creation. In the words of St.
Paul, it means that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible…All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1, 15.-17). And since knowing depends on being, not only what we know, but the way we know will be determined by this.
Therefore, if the God of Jesus Christ is Creator, and reveals Himself as Three Persons so
intimately related that one cannot be without the other, and yet are irreducibly different and free, then
the deepest meaning of Reality is Person, and Person in relation, either as Father, Son and Spirit. The
way Benedict XVI drove this home was to describe the Person of the Father not as “Father” or Individual,
but as the action of engendering the Son. That is, “’Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in
being-for the other is he Father; in his own being-in-himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation
of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness. “And so, to be father “is identical with the act of giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving…”2
This turns the world as we experience it upside down. If the being ultimately determining all things as real beings, and holding them all together, is not an individual substance as they appear to be, then the way of knowing is thoroughly changed. And so it is. The way to know Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God – and therefore a pure relation to the Father -, as the Son of the living God, will demand that we become relational ourselves. That is, the only way to know Jesus Christ as Son is to enter into a specific way of knowing which is called Christian faith. And Christian faith is relational as Christ, the Son, is relational. And this because like is known by like. Knowing means becoming one reality with the other. If the person or object to be known is at His root, relational, then the knower must become relational.
Robert Barron writes that “what follows from these breathtaking descriptions (of Colossians 1, 15-17 and the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel) is a centrally important epistemic claim: that Jesus cannot be measured by a criterion outside of himself or viewed from perspective higher than himself.”
But what if one is not Christian and believer in Jesus Christ? Since faith is the anthropological act
of going out of self – or self-transcendence , then anyone who truly goes out of self to God or other can
know the God-man, perhaps not as a Christian and call Him Christ, but he will “know” Him.
Islam is “Faith” as Conceptual Ideology, not Anthropology:
The reality is that Islam does not live faith as an anthropological act. It is a conceptual act that leads to prayer and fasting, but this worship more than faith. John Paul II suggested this when he said: “Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.
“Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.”
This is the reason that the Koran is recited, not read. David Burrell remarks: “We have already seen how the Qur’an is not so much read as recited in the Muslim community, so that verses chanted and heard in a recurring fashion have the effect of shaping lives by offering spontaneous phrases with which to guide action. And quite consciously so, since the term Qur’an means `a reciting,’ and so it was delivered to Muhammad, who was then told often enough to recite what he heard. Western writers cannot resist the expression `sacramental’ when remarking on the role which recitation of the Qur’an plans in Muslim life, for `reciting of the sacred words is itself a participation in God’s speech.”[ 2] In this regard, Sandro Magister’s remark that “the Koran is not the equivalent of the Christian Scriptures: it is the equivalent of Christ” is apposite.
Since Christian faith is an obedience of self-gift, and therefore, free, it is significant that faith in Islam is not free. And the result of this is the failure to have any notion of true “secularity” based on the “consciousness” of the self-transcending believer and the consequent dualism of Church and State as consequence. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had this comment:
“The modern idea of freedom is thus a legitimate product of the Christian environment; it could not have developed anywhere else. Indeed, one must add that it cannot be separated from this Christian environment and transplanted into any other system, as is shown very clearly today in the renaissance of Islam; the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing.
In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom. Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church done away with as a pubic and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system in unavoidable.
“With this the fundamental task of the Church’s political stance, as I understand it, has been defined; its aim must be to maintain this balance of a dual system as the foundation of freedom. Hence the Church must make claims and demands on public law and cannot simply retreat into the private sphere. Hence it must also take care on the other hand that Church and state remain separated and that belonging to the Church clearly retains its voluntary character.”
Benedict XVI’s conclusion at Regensburg was a recovery of reason which consisted in broadening it by a living Christian faith and/or the anthropology of service to the other which is the same. Reason has been limited and darkened in the West by the self-imposed scientific method which imposes the imperative of objective certainty as the criterion of truth. Islam lives in an a priori darkness of reason in its very understanding of the transcendence of God. Benedict’s great project during the years 2006-2008 was “the broadening of reason.”
 John Paul II, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Knopf (1994) 92-93.
 David Burrell, “Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions,” UNDP (1993) 180.
 J. Ratzinger, “Church, Ecumenism and Politics – Theology and the Church’s Political Stance,” Crossroad (1988) 162-163.
At the Sixth European Symposium of University Professors
Pope Benedict XVI
Widening the horizons of rationality
On Saturday, 7 June , the Holy Father met with participants at the Sixth European Symposium for University Professors in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. The Symposium was taking place in Rome from 5-8 June with an estimated 400 university professors participating from 26 European countries. The following is a translation of the Pope's Address, given in Italian.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
For me it is a motive of profound joy to meet you on the occasion of the Sixth European Symposium for University Professors on the theme: "Widen the horizons of rationality. Perspectives for Philosophy" promoted by the Professors of the Universities of Rome and organized by the Office for Campus Ministry of the Vicariate of Rome in collaboration with the regional and provincial Institutions and the Municipality of Rome.
I thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini and Prof. Cesare Mirabelli who have interpreted your sentiments, and I address my cordial welcome to all those present.
In continuity with last year's European meeting of university Lecturers, your Symposium takes up a very important academic and cultural theme. I would like to express my gratitude to the organizing committee for this choice which permits us, among other things, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio of my beloved Predecessor Pope John Paul II.
Already on that occasion 50 civil and ecclesial philosophy professors of the public and pontifical universities of Rome manifested their gratitude to the Pope with a declaration which confirmed the urgency of relaunching the study of philosophy in universities and schools.
Sharing this concern and encouraging fruitful collaboration among the professors of various Roman and European athenaeums, I wish to address a particular invitation to philosophy professors to continue with confidence in philosophical research, investing intellectual energy and involving new generations in this task.
The events which took place in the last 10 years since the Encyclical's publication have further delineated the historical and cultural scene in which philosophical research called to enter. Indeed, the crisis of modernity is not synonymous with the decline in philosophy; instead philosophy must commit itself to a new path of research to comprehend the true nature of this crisis (cf. Address to European Meeting of University Lecturers, 23 June 2007, L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 11 July 2007, p. 6) and to identify new prospectives toward which to be oriented.
An 'anthropological question'
Modernity, if well understood, reveals an "anthropological question" that presents itself in a much more complex and articulated way than what has taken place in the philosophical reflections of the last centuries, above all in Europe.
Without diminishing the attempts made, much still remains to be probed and understood. Modernity is not simply a cultural phenomenon, historically dated; in reality it implies a new planning, a more exact understanding of human nature.
It is not difficult to gather from the writings of authoritative thinkers an honest reflection on the difficulties that arise in the resolution to this prolonged crisis. Giving credit to some authors' proposals in regard to religions and in particular to Christianity is an evident sign of the sincere desire to exist from the self-sufficiency philosophical reflection.
From the beginning of my Pontificate I have listened attentively to the requests that reach me from the men and women of our time and, in view of their expectations, I have wished to offer a pointer for research that seems to me capable of raising interest to relaunch philosophy and its irreplaceable role in the academic and cultural world.
You have made it the object of reflection of your Symposium: it is the proposal to "widen the horizons of rationality". This allows me to reflect on it with you as among friends who desire to pursue a common journey.
I would like to begin with a deep conviction which I have expressed many times: "Christian faith has made its clear choice: against the gods of religion for the God of philosophers, in other words against the myth of mere custom for the truth of being" (cf. J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ch. 3).
Meet the reality of person
This affirmation, that reflects the Christian journey from its dawning, shows itself completely actual in the cultural historical context that we are living. In fact, only beginning from this premise, which is historic and theological at the same time, is it possible to meet the new expectations of philosophical reflection.
The risk that religion, even Christianity, be instrumentalized as a surreptitious phenomenon is very concrete even today. But Christianity, as I recalled in the Encyclical Spe Salvi is not only "informative", but "performative" (cf. n. 2). This means that from the beginning Christian faith cannot be enclosed within an abstract world of theories, but it must descend into the concrete historic experience that reaches humanity in the existence most profound truth of his.
This experience, conditioned by new cultural and ideological situations, is the place in which theological research must evaluate and upon which it is urgent to initiate a fruitful dialogue with philosophy.
The understanding of Christianity as a real transformation of human existence, if on the one hand it impels theological reflection to a new approach in regard to religion, on the other, it encourages it not to lose confidence in being able to know reality.
The proposal to "widen the horizons of rationality", therefore, must not simply be counted among the new lines of theological and philosophical thought, but it must be understood as the requisite for a new opening onto the reality that the human person in his uni-totality is, rising above ancient prejudices and reductionisms, to open itself also to the way toward a true understanding of modernity.
Humanity's desire for fullness cannot be disregarded. The Christian faith is called to take on this historical emergency by involving the men and women of good will in a simple task. The new dialogue between faith and reason, required today, cannot happen in the terms and in the ways in which it happened in the past. If it does not want to be reduced to a sterile intellectual exercise, it must begin from the present concrete situation of humanity and upon this develop a reflection that draws from the ontological-metaphysical truth.
Dear friends, you have before you a very exacting journey. First of all, it is necessary to promote high-level academic centres in which philosophy can dialogue with other disciplines, in particular with theology, favouring new, suitable cultural syntheses to orient society's journey.
The European dimension of your meeting in Rome — indeed, you come from 26 countries — can favour a truly fruitful comparison and exchange. I trust that the Catholic academic institutions are ready to open true cultural laboratories.
I would also like to invite you to courage youth to engage in philosophical studies, opportunely favouring initiatives with a university orientation.
I am certain that the new generations, with their enthusiasm, will know how to respond generously to the expectations of the Church and society.
In a few days I will have the joy opening the Pauline Year, during which we will celebrate the Apostle to the Gentiles: I hope that this unique initiative constitutes for all of you an opportune occasion to rediscover, in the footsteps of the great Apostle, the historic fecundity of the Gospel and its extraordinary potentiality for contemporary culture too.
With this wish, I impart my Blessing to you all.
Weekly Edition in English
11 June 2008, page 6
What’s the thesis? The way of knowing depends on the way of being. The Christian way of being is relational as self-transcendent. It demands a going out of self in obedience to God and service and love for the other. This self-transcendence is an experience that is accompanied by a consciousness that we have not been aware of for the duration of the Enlightenment, say from the 15th or 16th century to the present day. Descartes, fixing on that consciousness, confused it with the metaphysical reality of the person, and left us with an idealism without reality and a relativism without absolutes. That is, he left us with the person as consciousness.
German “idealism” from Kant onward has been confused with that error when in reality it is really an existential a recovery from it. Phenomenology is the culmination of that recovery where the notion of “experience” takes pride of place, and the experience of the self in the moral moment constitute a full recovery of realism in the being of the acting person.
 J. Ratzinger, “A Christian Orientation In a Pluralistic Democracy?” in Church, Ecumenism and Politics” Crossroad, New York (1988) 218.
 Every experience of the “Good” is the experience of becoming Christ. I am proposing that the experience of the self is the experience of reality, the absolute, truth, and God. It is becoming Christ as understood in Colossians 1, 15-17. Such an experience reveals “the other” to also be good and worthy of dialogue – which increases the self-giving, and the goodness. This is why Francis wants to talk with the atheists – and everybody.
 J. Ratzinger, “A Christian Orientation In a Pluralistic Democracy?” in Church, Ecumenism and Politics” Crossroad, New York (1988) 218.
 Consider how much sense this makes when Benedict XVI, in a keynote address to the Roman Synod on the Word of God: “Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life” [October 6, 2008].
 Robert Barron. “The Priority of Christ, Toward a Postliberal Catholicism,” Brazos Press (2007) 135
 John Paul II, with Ratzinger beside him, wrote in Fides et Ratio #5: “reason, rather than voicing the human orientation toward truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.”