Letter to the Pope

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A friend in Cairo sent me a copy of this letter, and as I had not seen it mentioned in any news reports, thought it worthwhile to share in the spirit in which it was written, of respect and love.

A Message from His Beatitude Ignatius IV

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

To His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

17th September, 2006-09-18

To Your Most Venerable Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Salutations and best wishes for your health:

It is with deep disquiet that we have followed your statements and the angry reactions that have accompanied them in the course of the last days. In this regard, we would like to clarify for Your Holiness certain essential points in which Eastern Christians believe that form part of their daily lives.

More than others, they have knowledge, experience and understanding of Islam, for they have coexisted with Muslims in cooperation and harmony from the beginning of the Islamic message until the present day.

We have been able to establish good relations, in an ambience of mutual respect for religious beliefs and practices, recognizing the freedom of each to live according to the teachings of his religion and the principles of his law. We are convinced that the relationship between Christianity and Islam was essentially born in this part of the world, this land of religious revelation. 

As you know, Pope John Paul II highly praised this coexistence, which he was also able to observe during his historical visit to Syria. This visit has become part of the history of the Vatican and part of a development that the late Pope desired to achieve.

We need not go into a discussion of the relationship of Christianity and Islam; a relationship that has consecrated coexistence and mutual respect, that we
cannot dispense with in these circumstances.  Nor need we recall here that the longest Surah of the holy Qur’an speaks with deep respect of Christianity.

We would however like to point out any discourse of religion which treats it as an objective subject of academic research does not accord fully with the truth that religion is doctrine and a faith practiced by believers. These have every right to practice their rites as they wish. There is no room here to consider religion as more an intellectual question than a matter of faith,
for discussing it in this way impinges on both understanding and faith.

We would hope that you may take part in discussing essential religious  questions free of the understanding and quotations of past ages, and to

come to them with a contemporary rather than a medieval perspective. We would affirm that religion is not a subject for intellectual and  philosophical luxury, but for living and coexisting in love, so as to accord with our faith and forms of worship.
This has marked the East, which we have inhabited since the times of revelation until today.
We ask for your prayers and we extend to you our best
wishes.

Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

Ya Haqq!

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8 Responses to Letter to the Pope

  1. Suroor says:

    Salaam Dear Brother,

    This is indeed a very well-thought and respectful letter. I am wondering why it never made it in press? Truly, it speaks of ‘haqq’.

    Thank you for sharing this because we would have never read it if you hadn’t.

    Ya Haqq!

    (I really, honestly, truly wanted to sign out like this:-) Hope you don’t mind??)

  2. mark walter says:

    A very well written letter affirming that we are, at heart, all brother and sisters, and that the principle of respect is enduring and essential in this world and all others.

  3. Irving says:

    Salaam and Greetings of Peace Dear Brothers and Sisters:

    It is indeed a well-written and thoughtful letter that should have gotten more exposure in the media. Please forward it if you wish, or link to it for others to read.

    May all brothers and sisters, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, or any other religion, embrace the blessings of love, peace and fellowship bestowed on humanity by the Loving and Merciful God.

    Ya Haqq!

  4. yasmine says:

    What a lovely, respectful letter. Thank you for sharing this, Irving. I actually saw this just a couple of days ago (and skimmed it only briefly) on the Zaytuna website, but I went back there just now to verify the link and couldn’t find it anymore. If they took it down, I don’t understand why, but it’s good to have your site as a resource to read this letter in its entirety.

  5. mshahin says:

    I hadn’t read this letter until you featured it. It serves as a good reminder for both sides

    Our differences should bring us closer together and not pull us apart. I think this letter does a good job of bonding us together.

    In a world of conflict and hate, it is now time to heal.

    Thanks for sharing this letter brother Irving!

  6. pbsweeney says:

    I finally found the original source of the letter (see below) as I was puzzled about why there was no press coverage. In thinking about why, perhaps one of the reasons it did not get much press is that the Greek Orthodox Church has a vastly different, more democratic, organizational structure than Christian churches. Ignatious is one of five Patriarchs who in confederation with each other basically run the Greek Orthodox Church. (They are somewhat like Bishops in the Catholic Church, though Bishops of course are part of a hierarchy). So what Ignatious says, as I understand it, is not necessarily shared by other Patriarchs and does not represent “the official position of the Greek Othodox Church” the way a pronouncement of the Pope would. Thus, the media likely follows all the Patriarch Offices in a less focused way than they follow the Vatican. It’s laziness – the existence of the Vatican just makes the media’s job easier.

    Additionally, Ignacious currently sits in Damascus, Syria. Can you imagine the pressure he endures to keep a balance of relationships, as Greek Orthodox Churches are as much subject to violence as Roman Churches in the Middle East, while at the same time he maintains very close ties with Roman Catholics. I think he did a brilliant job and love this letter.

    Thanks for posting it.

    Official Antioch Site where letter appears:
    http://antiochpat.org/english/news/news.php?newsid=105&PHPSESSID=2c476adf0f1486c17f6e0def97618324

  7. samaha says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I had not seen this letter before and after reading pbsweeney’s comment, I have a better understanding as to why.

  8. Rachael Ray says:

    wayfarer ii

    Interesting post. I came across this blog by accident, but it was a good accident. I have now bookmarked your blog for future use. Best wishes. Rachael Ray.

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