Sister Roberta Rodenhouse gets excited every time she speaks about visiting Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C.

“I think to have the pope come to this country, I think, is a very special event for all American Catholics,” she said.

It’s also special for non-Roman Catholics.

Dr. Imam Muhammad Shafiq, director and inman of the Islamic Center of Rochester, is one of 150 people who will discuss ways of improving inter-faith dialogue with the pope over a special dinner.

“The Muslims would like to further strengthen Catholic/Muslim relationship,” said Shafiq. “As you see, in Rochester, we have done a lot of groundwork for that.”

Early on, Pope Benedict XVI upset many Muslims when he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor, who characterized some of the teachings of the prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman.”

“Perhaps many people thought in the beginning that he would not be open to that like the Pope was before him,” Shafiq said. “Pope John Paul was open in interfaith dialogue.”

Shafiq also heads the Center for Interfaith Studies at Nazareth College. He said, in terms of religion, America is in the midst of what he calls a “second civil rights movement.”

“If you see the 21st century, the issues that we are facing, including the issue of terrorism and fundamentalism, all these issues come from religious misunderstanding and religious intolerance,” he said.


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