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Felix Körner SJ

Ecclesiastical Magisterium, Catholic Theology, Todays' Islam

Proposals for Solutions to Key Issues


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 3/2010, P. 169-181
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    FELIX KÖRNER, professor of dogmatics at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, looks into the question of how the by the Second Vatican Council initiated Christian-Islamic dialogue developed under the popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and describes the various phases of the dialogue.


Not only 11 September 2001, the day of the Islamist terrorist attacks in the U.S., is a special date for observers of the Christian-Muslim dialogue. Also 12 September is now significant. On 12 September 2006 in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg Benedict XVI lectured on "Faith, Reason and the University. Memories and Reflections" {1}.


Has the Dialogue been broken off?

The Pope had quoted a word of the year 1453 as peg for his remarks on Christianity's propensity to rationality. It was the provocative formulation of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus that the only new thing that Muhammad had brought was spreading religion through violence rather than through the "Logos." Three days later, the President of the Turkish Office for Religious Affairs (Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi) Ali Bardakoglu hypothetically commented on the quoted words:

"If they show the hatred, enmity and aversion which the pope carries around then this means, what awaits us is an obviously worrying situation. You can criticize the followers of a religion. But to offend the holiness of a religion, its prophets and its Scripture - this is arrogance; it is an expression of hostility, a disaster and creates conflict between religions." {2}

The question with which Ankara addressed the world public reads in plain language, "Has the Catholic Church broken off the interreligious dialogue?" - Since then enough has happened that allows to analyse and to assess the Holy See's current policy of dialogue. The past five decades of Catholic-Muslim relations can be divided up into three phases and connected with the names of three popes: Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. The three phases can also be characterized by three keywords: awareness, benevolence, academic excellence.



I. Awareness

Under Pope Paul VI the Second Vatican Council adopted in 1965 "Nostra Aetate", the relatively short Decree on the Relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religions. In it also the Muslims are mentioned. As already in the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" (1964) {3}, also this conciliar document speaks of people and not of a religion as such, not of Islam. The Muslim religious life is described with great respect. Among Muslims the passage has become so well known that Turkish theologians occasionally recite the conciliar phrase from memory:

"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." {4}

The council fathers then encourage Christians and Muslims to meet each other, after centuries of conflict, with understanding and to work together for justice and peace. - At the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church spoke thus twice about the Muslims. Is that new? What exactly distinguishes this "time of awareness" in terms of church history? It can be defined by three characteristics: respect, dialogue, ambiguousness.

1. Respect. Since its emergence, Islam was a theological topic for Christians. However, where thought was given to the faith of Muslims, until now only the ways in which Islam could be refuted were considered and explained, whereas Church leaders unpolemically refer to matters of Islam only when they spoke directly to Muslims. Why? In other words, what is the theological problem in forming a Christian judgment about the Muslim faith? While the Reformation put the question of whether we have correctly interpreted the text of the Revelation, the Koran inquires of us whether we have the correct text of the Revelation at all. The Qur'an wants to correct the text that is regarded by Christians as the central witness to the Revelation: the Bible {6}.

However, with the emendation of details it also makes a base correction. That is to say, according to the Koran not only this or that word of the Bible has to be amended; on the contrary, what is wrong is Jesus' assertion, which is witnessed in the Bible, that the Kingdom of God had been opened by him. The Koran does not acknowledge the finality that is opened and completed in Jesus.

That is to say, those who believe that a new divine revelation was necessary and also happened after Jesus' death reject what, according to the evidence of the New Testament (Mk 1:15) and the historical research, Jesus has said about himself {7}. With it, however, Christianity is de facto rejected. For the Christian church represents Jesus' claim: In order to gain the eternal redemption you must get totally involved with him {8}. The one who wants even only to expand this challenge has de facto replaced it.



One therefore gets on theologically tricky ground, if one wants to talk about the Muslims without simply rejecting Islam. The Second Vatican Council has by no means abandoned the radical nature of Jesus' challenge; but it succeeded in reverently depicting the efforts of non-Christians.

2. Dialogue. Paul VI used an unwonted term for the relationship between belief and unbelief, Church and world, "us" and "others". In his first encyclical "Ecclesiam suam" he spoke of "dialogue" {9}. Should Christ's great commission be replaced with a dialogue mission by the zeitgeist? With "dialogue" the pope has not said that the church recently would offer only guesses. Rather, as Paul VI's life has exemplarily shown, dialogue means humble awareness of what unites, and of differentiating obligations. Dialogue is reverent awareness of other people's genuiness and of one's own task to bear witness to what one has recognized to be true.

So dialogue did not mean to put one's own belief up for discussion, because one is no longer convinced of it. It rather means that Christ's message, the healing power of which one has recognized, is courageously presented to the critical reflection of the contemporaries. Entering into the dialogue here means to serve freedom, in which alone truth can be recognized. Such freedom makes it possible for human beings to gain real insight. What matters in the dialogue is by no means that, out of sheer respect, the faith of others becomes argumentatively untouchable. On the contrary, now you can point out errors. Dialogue is missionary, and mission is dialogical, when every interlocutor can discover new things and so the opportunity to insight and conversion is opened.

3. Ambiguousness. Within the Church the new tone of respect and dialogue was felt as encouragement. In many places the Church became again a dialogue partner in society. But during the upheavals of the late '60s in Western Europe many Catholics turned their back on the church, many priests gave up their office. They felt that the church had not fulfilled the hope of reforms awakened by the Council. This was partly due to nuances that one wanted to discern in the texts. In the Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes" the Council had taught that "the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" of Christ's death and resurrection (GS 22). After that, the opinion can be heard up to this day, the Church had acknowledged other religions as paths to salvation {10}

This is simply a misunderstanding. Christ is the way. Respect does not mean relativism. To acknowledge the value of other religions does not mean to assert the equality of all religions. The council fathers formulated that non-Christians are "orientated towards" the Church but not "on equal terms". Rather, according to the unvarying Catholic faith, all men are called to belong to the whole Church (LG 13).



God will receive into his eternity people who had no opportunity to recognize Christ but have lived lovingly (Mt 25.34). But what the church, and only she offers every human being goes beyond post-mortem issues. Through the Easter event the eternal communion with God has become communicable and can now be celebrated in the anticipation that liberates and enables us to all-understanding love. In other words, the church alone offers the sacraments of redemption.

The church was aware of this before, during and after the Council. However, the Council had not answered three theologically significant questions, which are important for living together: Is Muhammad a prophet? What exactly are the differences between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish commitment to God? And finally, can Christians and Muslims pray together?


II. Goodwill

With the Polish Pope, the Holy See entered into a new phase of the Christian-Muslim dialogue. Under John Paul II also the relations between the universal Church and Islam were colourful {11}. The interreligious programme of the Polish pope can only be understood in view of his person and history. Five influences seem remarkable.

We should not forget how much suffering Karol Wojtyla had already experienced when he became pope: early loss of his mother and brother, forced labour, underground church, hardships of the post-war years ... The result of all this is not bitterness but an optimistic personality. Directly after waking up he forgave his assassin Mehmet Ali Agca - and his word was convincing. Secondly, the at that time strong Jewish presence gives opportunity to the young Catholics to show sympathy and friendship to persons of another religion. Thirdly, he is moulded by the decades of the experience of violence of the declared atheism, first under Nazi Germany, then by the Soviet Union. He obviously concluded inversely that those who acknowledge the reality of God can cooperate in our global project of transforming humankind to true brotherliness. This made the pope a bridge builder in the interreligious field, because he saw in other religions potential for cooperation. A fourth formative factor is that he in Poland in those decades could hardly rely on public structures and therefore had to find and found confidants.

This is reflected in the information by a U.S. priest. The scholar in Islamic studies was for years director of the "Islam desk" at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:

"That was the most important thing I've done then: delete words. The pope occasionally wanted to introduce a quotation by the formula 'Muhammad says in the Quran: ...'. That would have been offensive to Muslim audiences. We always abbreviated the introductory formula to 'The Koran says: ...'".



Experts advised the pope and he did what they said. A last stamp of his personality and thus of his papacy should be mentioned. As a football player and actor the young Karol Wojtyla was used to a physically strenuous and public life. So under John Paul II a well-nigh activistic atmosphere had spread. This had effects also in the field of interreligious activities. On numerous journeys his speeches or gestures expressed closeness. Prayer and discussion meetings were initiated or co-organized everywhere. For the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi on 27 October 1986 - a Monday and therefore a religiously neutral day - the pope had invited numerous Christian leaders, but also representatives of Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, Shintoists, Zoroastrians and traditional religions. In the general audience (4) on Wednesday before the meeting John Paul II has said, "We want to be together to pray." This formula was chosen to avoid the impression that they would pray together. However, at that time there were critical voices against the prayer meeting.

On 6 May 2001, on his visit to Damascus, the pope knelt down to venerate the head of John the Baptist. Since the 8th century the ancient pilgrimage site is located in a Muslim house of worship, the Umayyad Mosque. This was the first documented visit by a pope in a mosque. Then, spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls had to answer the question whether the Pope had prayed in the mosque. It had been a "moment of meditation", he said. What was shown here was closeness, but the questions about Muhammad, witness to God, and common prayer remained still unanswered. A theological line that went beyond the goodwill of those different activities did not turn up. This would change in 2005 with the election of Joseph Ratzinger as pope.


III. Academic Excellence

The inter-religious policy of the new pontiff can be seen as a break, even as a demolition of what has been achieved so far. For Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI had repeatedly let it be known that an inter-religious dialogue "in the proper meaning of the word" was not possible; only an intercultural dialogue was possible {12}. But those who diagnose here a disruption misunderstand the Pope. He is obviously a different personality than his predecessors. The cardinals have elected a pope with a new competence that pursues a new line. In view of the interreligious dialogue three characteristics of Joseph Ratzinger become noticeable here.

1. Experience of Debate. The young intellectual grew up in constant discussions with fellow citizens who were admittedly close to the Catholic Church but questioned her representatives on a high level of reflection: Protestant colleagues and critical students.



Shortly before his election as pope the cardinal of the Roman curia stood up to the philosopher Jürgen Habermas and found with him a common language and perspective. As pope he continued the discussions with the circle of his students - as an interlocutor. He asks the readers of the first book of his pontificate "Jesus of Nazareth" to grapple with the book and not to obey silently {13}. In the interdenominational debate at a German university even the brusqueness of the Regensburg citation would at best have been understood as a friendly nudge; when it proved to be unacceptable in the interreligious dialogue, the pope apologized. All these examples show that this pontiff is open for and adroit at discussions. There are discussions but there is also reflection.

2. Condensed Formulas. Joseph Ratzinger is able to summarize abstract trains of thought into amazing short formulas. Think of his brief reply when asked what has Jesus brought: He has brought God. Benedict's gift for apposite wordings has also an interreligious significance. On Muslim side one was intrigued with his first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est". It also raised the question: Who speaks intellectually so attractive but at the same time also so noticeably close to tradition in favour of Islam, as here the Church succeeds in doing so? Finally, a global association of Muslim scholars signed an open letter titled "A Common Word". Its intention was to emphasize that Islam and Christianity have a common message: the command to love God and neighbour.

3. Power of Judgement. You can of course generously welcome such a settlement proposal, can declare it to be well-meant, and go on to the next gesture. The scholarly Pope, however, sees other possibilities. The love mentioned in the Muslim letter is a word to start with. Even if Muslims succeed in proving it to be a central concept of their faith, it is not yet decided that here something similar is designated as in Christianity. Here, then the need for discussion is evident. Benedict took up the offer of discussions and opened a dialogue process, the Catholic-Muslim Forum {14}. As a Catholic counterpart, he offered two papal academic institutions in Rome: the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), founded by the Order of the White Fathers, and the Pontifical Gregorian University, founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1553. Benedict showed once again that he trusts in the religious communities, which stand for academic quality, reflective continuity, and prudent spirituality. What matters in the interreligious dialogue process is differentiation.

Christian W. Troll SJ, himself once listener of Joseph Ratzinger's lectures, proposes "distinguishing in order to clarify" as a procedure for interfaith coexistence {15}. 'Distinguish' means a method that works on three levels: philosophical distinctio, spiritual discretio, and societal differentia - i.e. conceptual specification, sensitive orientation towards action, and affirmation of otherness.

The dialogue work of the Catholic Church has thus got a clear line, which gets along without platitudinous comparisons. Benedict does not paint things in black-and-white terms.



When he speaks about dialogue, he encouraged on the one hand, but shows at the same time hazards. Provided dialogue is merely a pragmatic agreement, the Pope warns rightly. He opposes two distortions of the Interreligious: First, he wants that faith, which is something sacred and intimate, is not exposed to public debate under talk-show conditions. Faith is intimate because it must be safe from being told by others what has to be done; it is holy because we, too, are not free to decide what has to be done. Where matters of faith become a subject of negotiation the nature of religious belief is disregarded. Regarding the talk of 'interreligious dialogue' the Pope's warning is therefore understandable. He who presents his religious beliefs has allowed a glimpse of his identity-giving decisiveness. This requires deep respect.

On the other hand, the Pope draws the attention to a fatal mistake when he rejects an interreligious dialogue in the true, namely in the ecumenical sense. The hoped-for aim of ecumenical dialogue is the recovery of the lost unity with other Christians: "ut unum sint" (that they are one) - so that the witness to Jesus Christ is given by his multifarious but one body: the united, worldwide church.

In contrast, the Church does with regard to the interreligious dialogue not hope for agreement with other religions on theological issues. Rather, she hopes to understand more clearly and to communicate her own message in view of the other. She hopes that theology is able to contribute points of view for finding forms of successful coexistence, and she may also hope that non-Christians acknowledge that they also need Christ for their salvation - without making this hoped-for recognition a criterion for the success of interreligious dialogue. But if the interfaith dialogue becomes a subcategory of the ecumenical movement, then one looks for a poor sort of theological compromise with believers who take fundamentally different experiences as a starting point. It is reasonable that Benedict XVI warns against it.

On his journey through Jordan in May 2009, the Pope commented on the dialogue process of the Catholic-Muslim Forum and said, "Such initiatives promote the better mutual understanding and the respect for both our commonalities and what we understand differently." {16} Such a word clarifies the shift in emphasis. For the relations between Islam and the Holy See in the past 45 years can be summed up in the formula: from awareness to good will, from good will to scientific approach. The impression that the relations would be broken off is deceptive. It is rather an organic development. Under Paul VI, the faith of Muslims had become the subject of respectfully-dialogical reflection. John Paul II was motivated by the Vatican Council's high esteem for Islam and felt to be entitled to create a good discussion climate. Under Benedict XVI the good climate for discussions that developed can now be used for good conversation; and good discussions also designate the differences.




There are questions that need to be resolved also within Christianity. Before specific questions can be answered some fundamental thinking is required. What exactly is, theologically, the difference between Islam and Christianity? With regard to the history of revelation Muslim thought holds the fundamental line that all prophets have brought the same divine revelation - but the people have time and again distorted it. That's why definitely through Muhammad the reliable divine "guidance" arrived, because it was quickly put into writing. From it follows that Muslims approach other revealed religions with the request "Basically, you want to believe and to do the same as we." Because of the suspicion of distortion with regard to the tradition of other Revelations Muslims de facto say to other religions: You can clarify your theological errors with the help of the Koran, i.e. through a terminologically clear monotheism. For the simple reason that in this monotheism no idea of representation exists, it does not need universally significant individual events. The Islamic doctrine of God does expressly take its starting point not from history but from a terminological concept of God: God is the Creator and therefore the exact opposite of creation, the radically Other.

Christians in dialogue with philosophy sometimes make the same mistake as Christians in dialogue with Islam: They engage themselves in drawing theological conclusions from a philosophical concept of God. This is not prohibited, but the challenge of Christian theology is more far-reaching. It has to show that and why both knowledge of God and salvation only then reaches its fulfillment, if people enter the history that is witnessed by the Bible. What Christians do and say does not need to begin expressly with Jesus. But at least inwardly the reason must always be Jesus. However, there is rightly some opposition in us against a piety that replaces justifications and explanations by the word "Jesus". We have to show why Jesus is to be the very centre. To this end a train of thought has to be comprehended.

We will only then overcome our egotism, if we throw ourselves away on others. Not only Christianity sees this in that way. But, without the reasonable hope that my 'throwing myself away' does not end in 'eliminating myself', it remains heroism. Only if I can participate in a history of a 'throwing oneself away' that has not ended in the death of the hero but ends recognizably in the fact that I am personally taken into eternal life, only then, my 'throwing myself away' is trustful love. Christian faith is therefore based on an individual history, namely on that which is witnessed in the Bible, but it is demonstrable in its universal necessity, because of the uniqueness of the Easter event. That's why it is not necessary and not honest to generalize the basic messages of Christianity so that a Muslim can join them.



Rather, three topics can be designated where Christian and Muslim thought is incompatible. These are the themes of history, sin, and person. It is possible to formulate about each of these three keywords a sentence that defines the Christian core message; it cannot be jointly spoken by Muslims, if they take the Koran seriously. These sentences are provocations. Even Christians understandably have difficulties with them. As soon as the respective sentence is mentioned, it shall be demonstrated how it follows from Jesus' life and message.

1. History: "God risked his divinity in history." - This sentence is clearly contradictory. For God has just to be proclaimed as the Almighty, whose will is done. However, God does not want to reign by enforcing his will but only by the free 'Yes' of his creatures. But he connects thus the success of his whole project to the consent of human beings. With a hopeful look at the end of history, Christians can say that this risky plan will have been successful. We trust that it will turn out well. But this is confidence. We ask in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done," and we realize that the almighty God does not ignore our prayer and co-operation but wants to use it for the success of the Kingdom of God.

In 1462 Nicholas of Cusa has proposed a name for God: God as the "non-aliud," the "Non-Other" {17}. We can try to fathom here the potential of this name; it seems that it is applicable to God's relation to history. If God is the mere opposite of his Creation, the Other One, then my own decision is irrelevant to the outcome of history. But if God is the Non-Other, if he is not simply opposite, if he wants rather that we as free creatures contribute to the success of his plan, then our responsibility becomes clear to us: Then the world is dependent on my consent.

2. Sin: "Man has a destiny but is too weak to fulfill it." - The New Testament describes the situation of man as dramatic. Human beings stand under a power that is hindering them from doing what they actually want. Paul calls this power sin. The vocation through which human beings reach their fulfilment is that they love in the way as Jesus loved us. "As I have loved you", defines the standard: the amicable commitment to the life of others, which cannot be reduced to concepts but in every decision it must build anew on Jesus' life and message. But, "As I have loved you" does not only say where our knowledge comes from, and what true love is. For this love is an overtaxing, and every day I am aware how I fall behind with it. However, "As I have loved you" does not only designate the source of that knowledge, this "new commandment" also indicates where from the strength comes to live it.

Nicholas of Cusa's proposal to call God "Non-aliud", Non-Other, means that God is not only the Other, i.e. the One who as the Righteous gives "guidance" and confronts us with His commandments. He is rather the Non-Other who lives and works in us and enables us to do what we ourselves cannot do, namely, really love others.



3. Person: "My self-awareness develops through the relationship to others." - An ontology of the person that starts from the Christian experience does not content itself with the border lines drawn by us when we are dealing with medium sized material objects. Such a demarcation leads to statements as they are made by Islamic mystics. A Sufi highlight is the statement of Baghdad's Mansur al-Hallag ( 922): "I am God." {18} According to his own conviction, here spoke no longer Hallag al-Mansur; on the contrary, he was completely "annihilated". God could take his place, so that the body of the mystic could be handed over without resistance to the execution by crucifixion. Here the pattern of thinking is "Either I - or Oneness with God."

The experience from which a Christian ontology of the person takes its starting point does not work with 'either - or'. Rather, it assumes that unity with God and personal selfhood are growing simultaneously. Irenaeus of Lyon ( 202) can formulate, "The glory of God is man fully alive." {19} God is not God at the expense of his creatures. He is, rather, to quote a third time the insight of Nicholas of Cusa, the Non-Other. He is no other being, with whose existence I must compete. He is the Non-Other, in whose self-fulfillment I achieve my fulfillment.


Core Issues

1. Prophet Muhammad? He who has grasped this understands also the upcoming individual issues better. On the one hand, it has to be discussed whether we can theologically acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet. Muhammad was without doubt an influential man with a message that was deemed to be divine. According to important historians he has led people to monotheism and to a life in more orderly structures. However, in the Christian theology a precise understanding of prophecy has been developed: prophets are messengers who prepare for the encounter with Christ. Such a preparation is done neither through the Scripture conveyed by Muhammad nor by the example of his life. Those who want theologically to call him prophet must logically also accept his book as revealed by God. It is therefore not advisable, out of respect for the other, to make concessions which prove to be not serious, in case they are examined.

2. Identical Creed? Another question is to what extent the Creed of Jews, Christians and Muslims aims ultimately at the same thing. By taking up approvingly a word of Gregory VII Benedict XVI has here offered already an advanced formula when he visited the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs in the November 2006.



In 1076 Pope Gregory had assented to the Muslim ruler al-Nasir, "We believe and confess one God, albeit in different ways." {20}

What exactly is the difference? The Islamic Creed, as it is recited as witness to God by the muezzin from the minaret and by every believer points out the existence of God. Muslims are here always anew confronted with the fact that mankind stands before God, their Creator and Judge. The Creed of Christians admittedly refers also to Him. The Christian Creed does not say that God exists but rather that he throws away himself on us and that we give away ourselves to him. It does not point to God's existence but proclaims God's history. Even if someone says only "God", "Lord" or "Father", s/he sums up with one word the whole Bible, because s/he speaks as a Christian, and therefore with Christ. Already by mentioning God Christians confess that they are not able by own means to enter in communion with the Creator and Judge. S/he reminds thus implicitly of the history of God's chosen people, the self-sacrifice of Jesus, and her/his own entrance into this history through the sacraments of the Church. Every Christian confession of God, whether Creed, prayer, or dipping in the stoup is a reminder of our own baptism.

3. Joint Prayer? This allows us to answer also the third question, whether Christians and Muslims can pray together. A criterion for distinguishing, i.e. for spiritually reflected action, is here whether the different "ways" are expressed in which here on the one hand Muslims and on the other hand Christians understand and substantiate that they are able to believe in God's reality and to witness it.



A technical discussion of theologians across religious boundaries should be no place where the reality of life is left out of account, i.e. where people are discriminated or even prosecuted for reasons of religion. Accordingly, in the working title of the first meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum in November 2008 not only the word 'love' was found but also 'human rights', and in the final document not only harmony is evoked but also the freedom of religion and worship for minorities is demanded. When a high-ranking delegation signs a document that is globally available for checking and that it must defend after its return even before its own faithful, this is a serious step; further subjects for negotiation begin already to emerge.

It has to be clarified, e.g. in what way Muslims and Christians can speak appropriately and conciliatorily of each other in religious education? Both sides have agreed to gather recommendable representations of their own religion. Another challenge is the question:



Is Islam a threat to a liberal state under the rule of law till such time as it officially commits to freedom of religion, where second-class "protected citizens" and prohibition of changing one's religion no longer exist? He who asks this question would possibly like to make it pointed: Since Islam has anyway no possibility - having no Magisterium - to give officially compulsory instructions there will also be no serious development in the affirmation of freedom of religion.

Here, however, three things must be considered: First, magisterial texts do not per se create a legal situation that is in all respects completed, because they speak in their own time and are dependent on empathic understanding. Secondly, the citizens of constitutional states are entitled and obliged to examine in a democratic process the existing constitutions and laws regarding their adequacy and, where necessary, to make sure that they are further developed; this also applies to Muslim fellow citizens. And finally, the Muslim faithful can by good arguments definitely be convinced of the things set down in our constitutions. But the statement of reasons has to point out that a newly emerging legal reality fits in the Islamic tradition and corresponds to the Koran.

That's why the public commitment to the Constitution is not already crucial for a successful and equitable coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims in a pluralistic constitutional state. It is usually sincere. But it only then promises societal stability if it is mentally understood, and that means with respect to Islam, if Muslims justify in a good Muslim way their commitment to the Constitution. This can be achieved - and some Muslim theologians have made considerable progress. Thus, for example, one can build on the observation that the fundamental gesture of the Koran is a call to a personal decision on one's life, namely on one's conversion. But such a decision presupposes that people actually have got the societal freedom to convert. The Koran thus requires of every society freedom of action for the individual.

Islamic thinkers are currently working on such justifications. Like all people they want to live in freedom but at the same time they want to show that this freedom is not imposed, but a freedom that can be realized authentically by Muslims. Islamic theological faculties in Germany would be the appropriate place where such justification could be refined and disseminated.



{1} Benedikt XVI., Glaube u. Vernunft. Die Regensburger Vorlesung (Freiburg 2006).

{2} Quoted from F. Körner, Kirche im Angesicht des Islam. Theologie des interreligiösen Zeugnisses (Stuttgart 2008) 94.

{3} See LG 16.

{4} NA 3; see about it Islamocristiana 32 (2006), Studies, Reflections and Testimonies on Nostra Aetate. Forty Years After, especially M. Borrman's remark on the development of section about Muslims: ebd. 20.



{5} See J.-M. Gaudeul, Encounters and Clashes. Islam and Christianity in History, volume 1: Survey (Rom 1984), Volume 2: Texts (Rom 1990); the same, Disputes? Ou Rencontres? L'Islam et le christianisme au fil des siecles, volume 1: Survol historique, volume 2: Textes temoins (Rom 1998).

{6} For instance Sure 4:157f.; 19:16-40.

{7} See E. W. Stegemann, Jesus, in: Der neue Pauly. Enzyklopädie der Antike, volume 5 (Stuttgart 1998) col. 918f.

{8} See e.g. J. Ratzinger, Einführung in das Christentum (München 1968) 136.

{9} Ecclesiam Suam (6. August 1964): "colloquium".

{10} See A. Renz, Die Erklärung über das Verhältnis der Kirche zu den nichtchristlichen Religionen Nostra aetate, in: Vierzig Jahre II. Vatikanum. Zur Wirkungsgeschichte der Konzilstexte, edited by F. X. Bischof and St. Leimgruber (Würzburg ²2005) 208-231,231.

{11} See the relevant documentation: "Die offiziellen Dokumente der katholischen Kirche zum Dialog mit dem Islam", edited by CIBEDO e. V., compiled by T. Güzelmansur, with an introduction by Ch. W. Troll (Regensburg 2009).

{12} For instance in the preface to M. Pera, Perche dobbiamo dirci Cristiani. 11 liberalismo, l'Europa, l'etica (Mailand 2008); see about it F. Körner, Dialog unmöglich?, in: CIBEDO-Beiträge 2/2009,48-50.

{13} See J. Ratzinger/Benedikt XVI., Jesus von Nazareth. Erster Teil (Freiburg 2007) 22 f. H

{14} See Ch. W. Troll, Christlich-muslimischer Dialog, in dieser Zs. 226 (2008) 721f.

{15} The same, Unterscheiden, um zu klären. Orientierungen im islamisch-christlichen Dialog (Freiburg 2007).

{16} Vgl.

{17} Nicolaus de Cusa, Directio speculantis seu de non aliud. Opera omnia, volume 13, edited by L. Baur and P. Wilpert (Leipzig 1944).

{18} Ana l-haqq. The classical work about Mansur al-Hallag is: L. Massignon, La passion de Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj, 4 volumes. (Paris 1975).

{19} Adversus Haereses, IV, 20,7.

{20} Vgl. the quotation is found in PL 148, col. 451: "Hanc itaque charitatem nos et vos specialibus nobis quam cxteris gentibus debemus, qui unum Deum, licet diverso modo, credimus et confitemur, qui eum Creatorem sxculorum et gubernatorem hujus mundi quotidie laudamus et veneramur." The Gregory quote is no new discovery; "Nostra Aetate" uses just this passage as proof of the last part of the ling. relative clause that says of the Muslims: "qui unicum Deum adorant, viventem et subsistentem, misericordem et omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae" ("They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth", NA 3).


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