ROME — The pope met with the head of an international Islamic organization on Friday, a meeting that was characterized as the first-ever for the group.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), sat down with Pope Francis at the Vatican in an effort to create dialogue between the Muslim and Roman Catholic worlds. A news release from OIC outlined that the presence of Muslims has increased in “historically Christian countries.”
“In this context, the discussions expressed the need for greater efforts to foster respect for religious pluralism and cultural diversity, and to counter the spread of bigotry and prejudices,” the group explained. “It was stressed that interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and as such it is a duty for adherents of all faith traditions.”
OIC also advised that Ihsanoglu discussed with the Pope “his vision regarding the need for a ‘historic reconciliation’ between Islam and Christianity based on the common Abrahamic roots and in order to support multiculturalism and harmonious societies.”
According to Rome Reports, the two exchanged gifts following the talks, with Ihsanoglu donating a 14th century publication–presumably Islamic–to the Vatican library, and Pope Francis giving Ihsanoglu and his entourage his papal medallion. The pope then asked the men for their prayers and posed for photographs.
This is not the first time, however, that the pope has engaged in dialogue with members of the Islamic religion. As previously reported, in August of this year, Pope Francis had issued a written greeting to Muslims in recognition of the close of the Islamic holiday Ramadan.
“Turning to mutual respect in inter-religious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values,” he wrote. “Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!”
Francis also held an ecumenical meeting in March, greeting Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as those who ascribe to no faith at all. During the occasion, he praised the Muslim leaders that had come for the meeting, remarking that they were men who “adore the one, living, and merciful God and who call upon Him in prayer.”
“For my part, I wish to assure you, following in the path of my predecessors, of my firm will to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue,” he said, referencing the Second Vatican Council. “I also ask of you the kindness of a special prayer for myself, so that I might be a pastor in harmony with Christ’s heart.”
However, Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries of Plano, Texas, told Christian News Network that it is concerning to observe the Vatican’s ecumenical talks with the followers of Islam.
“The pope’s meeting with Muslim leaders is an indication of his continuing efforts to rebuild the religious tower of Babel,” he said. “It is outrageous that he welcomed an organization that promotes Muslim solidarity and which releases an annual report showing the discrimination some societies have against Muslims.”
“He must not be aware that the Quran contains over 100 verses that call Muslims to war against nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule,” he continued. “Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.”
Gendron, a former Roman Catholic, stated that he also found it disturbing that Pope Francis asked OIC for their prayers.
“The pope’s request for prayers from the Muslims is consistent his belief that they worship the same God,” he stated. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 841, reads, ‘The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims … together with us they adore the one, merciful God.’ This is a blatant rejection of the teachings of Christ, who declared He is the only way to the Father. Those who do not believe Jesus is God will die in their sins.”