The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) constituted a very important moment in the development of relations between the Church and the Muslims. After centuries of tension and suspicion, the Church defined a new language for a relationship of dialogue. Paragraph 3 of Nostra Aetate (Our Times), the document that dealt with “the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions”, states:
“The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. 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; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”
The document brought in its wake regular meetings between Catholics and Muslims and the exchange of messages on important occasions.
Message of Pope Francis on the occasion of Id al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) 2013
Important moments in the weaving of these relations have been the visits of the Popes to Muslim holy shrines including the visits of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, the third most important sanctuary in the Muslim world.
An important fruit of the dialogue has been the Common Word document, signed by many Muslim leaders and intellectuals.
The Church of the Holy Land has highlighted relations with Muslims in its own Synod (1995-2000) and the document published in its wake is an important resource in the building of the dialogue with Muslims.
General Pastoral Plan, “Relations with Believers of Other Religions”