Cardinal Mahony, Muslim Leaders Discuss Pope's References to Islam; Leaders Reaffirm Bonds of Friendship Between Communities, Pledge Future Cooperation

September 22, 2006

Muslim American leaders of Southern California met earlier today with Cardinal Roger Mahony to discuss recent statements by Pope Benedict which referenced Islam, and to reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship that have existed between the Catholic and Muslim communities of Los Angeles for several decades.

The Muslim leaders recalled the hurt that many Muslims felt when Pope Benedict quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who stated that Islam was spread by the sword.  The Muslim leaders also said that they welcomed the Pope's subsequent statements clarifying his position on Muslim-Catholic relations. The delegation also condemned the violent acts that targeted Christian churches and people in the wake of the pope's initial speech.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of the Southern California, recalled "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council's document on the Church's relations with non-Christians, in urging Muslims and Catholics to re-double their efforts to work more closely together on moral, social and civil rights issues. Muslim and Catholic leaders have collaborated on issues of health care, education, immigration and the alleviation of poverty. Over the years, Catholic-Muslim dialogue in Los Angeles has resulted in the publication of two joint documents: "Religion and the U.S. Constitution," and a document on interfaith marriage.

"Los Angeles is the capital of interfaith relations and of diversity," said Dr. Maher Hathout, Vice-Chair of the Shura Council.

Both Cardinal Mahony and the Muslim leaders agreed to create more opportunities at the local level to educate Catholics and Muslims in Southern California about one another and the bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two faiths. Cardinal Mahony said the two religions should seize this "teachable moment" to affirm commonalities and increase dialogue in all possible areas.

Muslim leaders and Cardinal Mahony discussed together a variety of opportunities for deepening contacts and promoting friendship between Muslims and Catholics in Los Angeles, including the "twinning" of parishes and mosques to promote interfaith understanding; a visit by Cardinal Mahony to a local mosque; and, a joint Catholic-Muslim delegation from Los Angeles that would visit Muslim and Christian communities in the Middle East, then visit the Vatican.

The Muslim American delegation visiting Cardinal Mahony at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in Los Angeles, included: Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; Dr. Maher Hathout, Vice-Chair of the Shura; Moustafa al-Qazwini, Imam of Islamic Educational Center of Orange County; Ahmed Sakr, Islamic Educational Center; Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Shura Council; Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Southern California of the Council on American Islamic Relations; and Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Also attending the meeting was Father Alexei Smith, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

[CONTACT: Edina Lekovic, 213-383-3443,; Tod M. Tamberg, Director of Archdiocese of Los Angeles Media Relations, 213-637-7216 or 818-763-3101]

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