Muslim Affairs

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. 

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. 

Cardinal O'Malley's 'Id al-Fitr letter to the Muslim community  (October 2009)

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue's Message for the End of Ramadan, 2009

Vatican II Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), #3 (October 28, 1965) 

September 2008 - "Islam's Many Faces" by Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, M.Afr., Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Delegate to the Arab League, and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

May 8 - 15, 2009 - Program and texts from Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the Holy Land 


Additional Resources


Highlights from John Paul II's Papacy Concerning Christian-Muslim Relations

Excerpts from some of Pope John Paul II’s addresses pertaining to Christian-Muslim Relations

For a more complete set of statements on Islam, click here. 

  • John Paul II, address to the Catholic community of Ankara, Turkey, November 29, 1979
    “My brothers, when I think of this spiritual heritage (Islam) and the value it has for man and for society, its capacity of offering, particularly in the young, guidance for life, filling the gap left by materialism, and giving a reliable foundation to social and juridical organization, I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’ as the Council calls upon us to do (Nostra Aetate 3).”
  • John Paul II, address to representatives of Muslims of the Philippines, February 20, 1981
    “I deliberately address you as brothers: that is certainly what we are, because we are members of the same human family, whose efforts, whether people realize it or not, tend toward God and the truth that comes from him. But we are especially brothers in God, who created us and whom we are trying to reach, in our own ways, through faith, prayer and worship, through the keeping of his law and through submission to his designs. …”
  • “Dear Muslims, my brothers: I would like to add that we Christians, just like you, seek the basis and model of mercy in God himself, the God to whom your Book gives the very beautiful name of al-Rahman, while the Bible calls him al-Rahum, the Merciful One.”
  • John Paul II, address to the bishops of North Africa on their ad limina visit, Rome, November 23, 1981
    “One of the essential characteristics of the life of the Church in Maghreb is, in fact, to be invited to enter upon a constructive Islamic-Christian dialogue. I am anxious to encourage you along this difficult way, where failure may occur, but where hope is even stronger. To maintain it, strong Christian convictions are necessary. …
  • “But it can never be said enough that such a dialogue is in the first place a question of friendship; one must know how to give dialogue the time for progress and discernment. That is why it is surrounded by discretion out of a concern to be considerate with regard to the slowness of the evolution of mentalities.”
  • John Paul II, address to the participants in a symposium on “Holiness in Christianity and in Islam,” Rome, May 9, 1985
    “All true holiness comes from God, who is called ‘The Holy One’ in the sacred books of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Your holy Qur’an calls God ‘Al-Quddus,’ as in the verse: ‘He is God, besides whom there is no other, the Sovereign, the Holy, the (source of) Peace’ (Qur’an 59, 23). The prophet Hosea links God’s holiness with his forgiving love for mankind, a love which surpasses our ability to comprehend: ‘I am God, not man; I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy’ (Ho 11:9). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples that holiness consists in assuming, in our human way, the qualities of God’s own holiness which he has revealed to mankind: ‘Be holy, even as your heavenly Father is holy’ (Mt 5:48).
  • John Paul II, address to representatives of the Muslims of Belgium, May 19, 1985
    “It is a good thing to come to understand each other by learning to accept differences, by overcoming prejudices in mutual respect, and by working together for reconciliation and service to the lowliest. This is a fundamental dialogue which must be practiced in neighborhoods, in places of work, in schools. This is the dialogue which is proper to believers who live together in a modern and pluralistic society.
  • “It has not been granted to us that we form a single community; this is, rather, a test which has been imposed upon us. In confronting this situation, allow me to repeat the advice of the Apostle Paul: ‘Those who have placed their faith in God should set their hearts on the practice of what is good’ (Tt 3:8).
  • John Paul II , address to the young Muslims of Morocco, August 19, 1985
    “I believe that we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them. Both of us believe in one God, the only God, who is all justice and all mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving, of repentance and of pardon; we believe that God will be a merciful judge to us all at the end of time, and we hope that after the resurrection He will be satisfied with us and we know that we will be satisfied with him.
  • “Loyalty demands also that we should recognize and respect our differences. Obviously the most fundamental is the view that we hold onto the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. You know that, for Christians, Jesus causes them to enter into an intimate knowledge of the mystery of God and into the filial communion by His gifts, so that they recognize Him and proclaim Him Lord and Savior.
  • “Those are the important differences which we can accept with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance; this is a mystery about which, I am certain, God will one day enlighten us.
  • “Christians and Muslims, in general we have badly understood each other, and sometimes, in the past, we have opposed and often exhausted each other in polemics and in wars.
  • “I believe that today, God invites us to change our old practices. We must respect each other, and we must stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.
  • John Paul II, address to a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims, February 26, 1986
    “Both the Bible and the Qur’an teach that mercy and justice are two attributes most characteristic of God. He, ‘the Just One,’ ‘the Merciful, the Compassionate,’ can bring about these same qualities in mankind, if only we open our hearts to allow him to do so. He wants us to be merciful toward each other. Along this path there are new solutions to be found to the political, racial and confessional conflicts which have plagued the human family throughout history.
  • “I wish to encourage you in your efforts. In today’s world, it is more important than ever that people of faith place at the service of humanity their religious conviction, founded on the daily practice of listening to God’s message and encountering him in prayerful worship. My prayers and hopes are with you as you pursue your reflection on the God of mercy and justice, the God of peace and reconciliation!”
  • John Paul II at Assisi, October 27, 1986, prays for peace together with representatives of the world’s religions
  • John Paul II, address to the delegation of the World Islamic Call Society, Rome, 15 January 1990
    “… Both Christians and Muslims are called to defend the inviolable right of each individual to freedom of religious belief and practice. There have been in the past, and there continue to be in the present, unfortunate instances of misunderstanding, intolerance and conflict between Christians and Muslims, especially in circumstances where either Muslims or Christians are a minority or are guest workers in a given country. It is our challenge as religious leaders to find ways to overcome such difficulties in a spirit of justice, brotherhood and mutual respect. …”
  • John Paul II, to H. E. Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Cairo, February 24, 2000
    “I express my great gratitude for this opportunity and I greet all the eminent scholars gathered here. I am convinced that the future of the world depends on the various cultures and on interreligious dialogue.”
  • John Paul II, at the International Airport, Amman, Jordan, March 20, 2000
    “Building a future of peace requires an ever more mature understanding and ever more practical cooperation among the peoples who acknowledge the one true, indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among the highest values. I earnestly hope that my visit will strengthen the already fruitful Christian-Muslim dialogue which is being conducted in Jordan, particularly through the Royal Interfaith Institute.”
  • John Paul II, to the ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, September 7, 2000
    “In a world deeply marked by violence, it is bitterly ironic that even now some of the worst conflicts are between believers who worship the one God, who look to Abraham as a holy patriarch and who seek to follow the Law of Sinai. Each act of violence makes it more urgent for Muslims and Christians everywhere to recognize the things we have in common, to bear witness that we are all creatures of the one merciful God, and to agree once and for all that recourse to violence in the name of religion is completely unacceptable. Especially when religious identity coincides with cultural and ethnic identity it is a solemn duty of believers to ensure that religious sentiment is not used as an excuse for hatred and conflict. Religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination; it seeks the good of everyone and therefore ought to be a stimulus for solidarity and harmony between individuals and among peoples”
  • John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 55, January 6, 2001
    “It is in this context (of openness to God’s grace) also that we should consider the great challenge of interreligious dialogue to which we shall still be committed in the new millennium, in fidelity to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (Cf. Second Vatican Council, declaration Nostra Aetate). . . . This dialogue must continue. In the climate of increased cultural and religious pluralism which is expected to mark the society of the new millennium, it is obvious that this dialogue will be especially important in establishing a sure basis for peace and warding off the dread specter of those wars of religion which have so often bloodied human history. The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace.”
  • John Paul II, address on his Visit to the Umayyad Great Mosque, May 6, 2001 – first pope to enter a mosque
    “It is in mosques and churches that the Muslim and Christian communities shape their religious identity, and it is there that the young receive a significant part of their religious education. What sense of identity is instilled in young Christians and young Muslims in our churches and mosques? It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.
  • “I truly hope that our meeting today in the Umayyad mosque will signal our determination to advance interreligious dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam. This dialogue has gained momentum in recent decades; and today we can be grateful for the road we have traveled together so far.

How can I be involved?

Consider the ATHENAGORAS SOCIETY, which is dedicated to the reconciliation of the Latin and Orthodox Churches, the two largest Christian Churches, which have been tragically separated for almost a thousand years. You may contact the Society at: THE ATHENAGORAS SOCIETY, 8332 Belleview Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64114.

Also, if you are interested in ecumenical relations between Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox, you may wish to get to know the Eastern Catholic Churches better.   They take a very active role in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism.   Visit www.melkite.org, or subscribe to Sophia ($15, mailed directly to Sophia, 158 Pleasant St., Brookline, MA 02446.

If you are interested in doing more social action and/or public policy work together with other Christians motivated by the Gospel, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (the public policy office for the Dioceses of Massachusetts) cooperates on many initiatives with the Massachusetts Council of Churches: Decade to Overcome Violence, Ecumenical Working Group to Counter Racism, Oppose Death Penalty, Protect a Worker’s Right to observe the Sabbath, Prevent Casino Gambling, Promote the Causes of Persons with Disabilities.   On these and other collaborations you may wish to contact the Catholic Conference (617-367-6060).   You may also contact Rev. Jill Wiley of the Mass. Council of Churches 617-523-1483. Of course there are also ecumenical Pro-Life events such as the March for Life.   Many of our fellow Churches and Ecclesial Communities have Pro-life groups (Methodists Against Abortion, Lutherans for Life, etc).

If you are a Young Adult, you may wish to follow the example of other Young Adults who have sought out and invited Young Adult Groups of other Churches or Religions to form an ongoing relationship of Dialogue and Social Life.   For more information, contact the Ecumenical Office (email below).

Visit the HARVARD UNIVERSITY PLURALISM PROGRAM, www.fas.harvard.edu/pluralism 

Envoys for Ecumenism
You are invited to become a member of Envoys for Ecumenism, sponsored by the Massachusetts Council of Churches, an intentional association of individuals committed to invigorating the ecumenical movement through spiritual renewal in companionship and community.   People who are committed to the ecumenical movement – the quest for reconciliation in the body of Christ – often find their faith enriched and enlivened by their encounters with Christians from other churches.  To facilitate this, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Council of Churches initiated in 1990 “Envoys for Ecumenism”.  Membership is open to anyone who subscribes to the purpose of the association, and who commits him/herself to the ten-point discipline listed below.
You are invited to become a member of Envoys for Ecumenism, sponsored by the Massachusetts Council of Churches, an intentional association of individuals committed to invigorating the ecumenical movement through spiritual renewal in companionship and community.   People who are committed to the ecumenical movement – the quest for reconciliation in the body of Christ – often find their faith enriched and enlivened by their encounters with Christians from other churches.  To facilitate this, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Council of Churches initiated in 1990 “Envoys for Ecumenism”.  Membership is open to anyone who subscribes to the purpose of the association, and who commits him/herself to the ten-point discipline listed below.

Practice  daily prayer and meditation in the spirit of John 17:21,          “That they may all be one…so that the world may believe…,” including intercessory prayer for other “Envoys for Ecumenism.”
Read, at least weekly, literature about the quest for Christian unity, and/or the relationship between the unity and mission of the Church.
Practice monthly shared Bible study with a person or persons of another Christian tradition.
Give some time, each year, to a voluntary association devoted to promoting Christian unity.
Gather once annually with other “Envoys for Ecumenism” for dinner and dialogue about the observations, hopes and concerns of ecumenical work experienced through involvement in voluntary associations.
Contribute financially to an ecumenical association.
Facilitate and/or participate annually in at least one ecumenical worship service (such as during the week of prayer for Christian unity).
Attend annually at least one ecumenical event for personal edification.
Witness frequently to one’s ecumenical commitment (especially in a local church), and encourage annually at least one other person to become an “Envoy for Ecumenism.
Participate in an annual twenty-four hour retreat for “Envoys for Ecumenism”, during which members can become a gathered community, and can be refreshed by, rewarded for, and rededicated to the ecumenical mandate.
If you would like to become an “Envoy for Ecumenism” please fill out this form and return to :    Envoys for Ecumenism, Massachusetts Council of Churches, 14 Beacon Street, Room 416, Boston, MA 02108.    Phone: 617-523-2771

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PRAYER BOOKLET

A resource for your church or individual use.

“Together We Pray: Christian Prayers for Unity" is a booklet containing thirty-one prayers and related scripture passages for use in a one month cycle, along with a newly comissioned hymn and a litany. It has been prepared for both individual and group use as we anticipate and then celebrate the millennium together as Christians. Contributors include church leaders and representatives from ecumenical agencies across Massachusetts.

To order for your church or community:

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