Muslims worldwide are currently observing Ramadan (April 12 to May 11) a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. While strides to understand each other continue, there still exists tensions. I offer the following article by Biagio Mazza which offers a review of the church’s teaching on Islam from the Second Vatican Council. She writes, “In the 1960s, the participants at the Second Vatican Council were very much aware of these tensions and distortions and addressed the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Nostra Aetate, the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” (Promulgated October 28, 1965) Nostra Aetate, contains a rather significant paragraph concerning Muslims and the church’s relationship to them. The document first addressed the church’s relation to non- Christian religions by stating: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. It has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from its own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women. ... Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non- Christians, together with their social life and culture” (Nostra Aetate #2). Nostra Aetate then goes on to address various non-Christian faith traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, with a large section devoted to the church’s relationship with Jews and Judaism. Nostra Aetate #3 addresses the church’s relationship with Muslims in a very pastorally significant and truly insightful understanding of Islam and its beliefs and practices.
Muslims worship God who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to humanity. They endeavor to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet; his virgin mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason, they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (Nostra Aetate #3).
The Second Vatican Council acknowledges that we have much in common with Islam, both in belief and in practice, regarding the promotion of peace, social justice and moral values. Despite extremists on both sides, most Muslims, like most Christians, desire to express their belief in and love of God by their inclusive love of all God’s people and all God’s creation. Vatican II’s challenge to us today is still as powerful and prophetic as it was 50 years ago. (April 2015, Celebration, p.12, The National Catholic Reporter
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