Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, one of the Vatican's foremost experts on Islam, told an audience in Washington DC that interreligious dialogue between Catholics and Muslims is not only possible but necessary. “Life, action, discourse and spiritual experience, these four levels of dialogue were highlighted at Vatican II,” Archbishop Fitzgerald said, as the way interreligious dialogue should proceed.
The archbishop, who headed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue before serving as nuncio to Egypt and apostolic representative to the Arab League, noted that Catholics and Muslims have lived side by side in many cities for centuries without overt strife, even though “it takes effort not to live in ghettoes”. He highlighted joint pro-life efforts as an example of common action by Christians and Muslims.
A recent translation of the Catholic catechism into Farsi by Islamic scholars at Qum was cited as an example of shared intellectual discourse. Fitzgerald noted that “the Catholic bishop of Tehran was delighted by the translation because he did not have the resources to provide one.”
Finally, in terms of spiritual experience, Archbishop Fitzgerald referenced the “Bond of Peace” annual meetings in Algeria between Islamic and Christian clergy at a Trappist monastery, which have been going on since 1979, even after seven of the Tibhirine monks were kidnapped and killed in 1996.