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ABU DHABI - Kalima, the translation project of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH),
Heinz-Joachim Fischer's 'Between Rome and Mecca: the Popes and Islam' now available in Arabic.
published the Arabic translation of a book addressing the relationship between the Vatican and Muslims.
The book, entitled "Zwischen Rom und Mekka. Die Päpste und der Islam - Between Rome and Mecca: the Popes and Islam" was written by Heinz-Joachim Fischer. It gives a summary of the relationship between the author and the Vatican, spanning over twenty years. The writer enjoyed direct contact with officials of the Holy See.
The author travelled with the late pope, John Paul II, during his visits to Muslim countries. He also accompanied the current pontiff, Benedict VI, on his trips.
The book offers Arab readers the chance to learn about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and it is told from the unique viewpoint of a journalist who is close to the Vatican.
The idea of the book was first conceived following a lecture delivered by Benedict VI at the University of Regensburg. The lecture was entitled "Faith, Reason and the University" and it aroused a wide range of reactions in the Muslim World, prompting the author to investigate further the historical relationship between Catholic Christianity and Islam.
The book consists of four sections and addresses the dimensions of the relationship between the two sides, past and present. In the first section, the author makes a comparison between the Muslim World League and the Vatican. In the same section he also writes about the Crusades and the Ottoman siege of Vienna.
In the second section, the book discusses contemporary popes and their opinions on Islam. This section sees the author cite the positive decision by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) with regards to Islam, and touches on the dialogue that the former pope enjoyed with Muslims.
The author has devoted the third section of the book to Benedict VI, giving background information on the pope's academic achievements and the time he spent teaching at several German universities. This section also examines his views on the relationship between faith and reason, citing the text and footnotes of his lecture, as well as the responses to his teachings in Germany.
The book pauses to discuss the message sent by138 Islamic figures to Benedict VI, under the title of "A Common Word", stressing its sound logic.
The fourth part of the book talks about the position that some popes took with regard to the Crusades. Many noted that the Crusades placed a heavy strain on the relationship between Christians and Muslims, and served only as an obstacle to constructive dialogue between these two religions.
At the end of the book, the author touches on the views of thinkers and philosophers from the Age of Enlightenment in the West on Christianity. He urges Muslim thinkers to adopt a similar view on Islam.
The book repeatedly addresses the topic of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Although the author gives some examples of positive and flexible gestures made by some figures in the Vatican, he concludes his book on a pessimistic note using a quote from the introduction of Benedict VI to a book written by the Speaker of the Italian Senate. He states: "A dialogue between religions is not possible in the strictest sense."
This book seeks to offer a review of the Vatican's policy towards Islam in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It calls for a search for common values, based on mutual respect and non-violence.
The author of the book earned his doctorate in 1973 in Philosophy of Religion from the University of Munich. Since 1978 he has worked as a correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper in Italy and the Vatican. He has close ties to both popes and Vatican officials, and has previously authored books on the Vatican-Muslim relation, as well as on the former and current pontiffs.
The book is translated from German into Arabic by Dr. Sami Abu Yahia and Fuad Ismail. It was reviewed and introduced by Dr. Sheikh Al Khalil, professor of comparative literature at Yarmouk University in Jordan.