pope benedict 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Vatican is exploring the possibility of expanding its Catholic-Jewish dialogue to also include Muslims, although talks are at a very initial stage, a Vatican official said Friday.
Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the Vatican's office for interreligious dialogue, spoke in an interview after the World Jewish Congress said its chairman, Rabbi Israel Singer, had discussed the initiative with Fitzgerald and other high-ranking Vatican officials during a visit to Rome.
The main point of the talks was to intensify the Vatican's official dialogue with Jews, but they also included "specific possibilities to expand interfaith talks to also include representatives from the Islamic faith," the WJC said in a statement.
Details on establishing a "trialogue" were now to be discussed in bilateral and multilateral meetings, the statement said.
"It is important to enter into discussions with the third 'Abrahamic child,' Islam," Singer said in the statement. "No one in the meetings has underestimated the difficulties in bringing about a meaningful dialogue. But we all agreed that the principle of mutual respect can override differences that exist between the religions."
Fitzgerald confirmed he had met with Singer on Thursday and that they discussed "the various meetings taking place between Jews, Christians and Muslims."
"We examined the possibility in doing something in this line," he said of the WJC's suggestion for a trialogue with Muslims. But he stressed Thursday's encounter with Singer was "just an exploratory meeting."
Pope Benedict XVI has tried to reach out to Muslims, and met with Muslim representatives during his visit to Cologne, Germany in August.
He has also made improving relations Jews a priority of his pontificate, continuing the groundbreaking work of his predecessor John Paul II. The Vatican has an office that deals specifically with relations with Jews, whom John Paul once called the "older brothers" of Christians.
During the Cologne trip, Benedict became the second pope in history to enter a synagogue.
The World Jewish Congress is an international federation that represents Jewish communities around the world.