Monday, May 28, 2007

Benedict U-Turns On Inter-Religious Dialogue

A year after Pope Benedict merged it into the Vatican Council for Culture, Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has announced that the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue will be restored in its own right.

Last year, Pope Benedict merged the department with the Vatican's culture ministry and removed its president, archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, reports.

Fitzgerald, a Briton who is one of the Catholic Church's most experienced figures in dialogue with Islam, was sent to Cairo in what was widely seen as a demotion.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told Italian daily, La Stampa, that the council would now be reinstated as a department in its own right.

"The change highlights the importance of inter-religious dialogue," he said.

It is rare for the Vatican to reverse its decisions, and even rarer for it to do so in such a short period of time.

Months after Fitzgerald's removal, the Pope angered Muslims with a lecture that seemed to depict Islam as an irrational religion tainted with violence.

He later expressed regret at the pain his comments had caused and tried to defuse tensions during a trip to Turkey, where he prayed at a mosque and called Islam a peaceful faith.


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