( AP ) - A meeting between Catholics and Muslims is planned in Rome this spring to start a dialogue between the faiths after relations were soured by Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 comments about Islam and holy war, Vatican officials said.
Benedict proposed the encounter as his official response to an open letter addressed to him and other Christian leaders in October by 138 Muslim scholars from around the world. The letter urged Christians and Muslims to develop their common ground of belief in one God.
The head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano over the weekend that three representatives of the scholars would come to Rome in February or March to prepare for the meeting. He did not give a date for the meeting, other than say it would take place in the spring.
The agenda, he said, would cover three main topics: respect for the dignity of each person, interreligious dialogue based on reciprocal understanding, and instruction of tolerance among the young.
"The meeting with a delegation of some of the 138 Muslims, planned for Rome next spring, is in a certain sense historic," Tauran was quoted by L'Osservatore as saying.
Benedict angered Muslims with a speech in September 2006 in Germany in which he cited a Medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."
The pope later said he was "deeply sorry" over the reactions to his remarks and that they did not reflect his own opinions. The Vatican has been working ever since to improve relations with moderate Muslims.