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Muslim leaders seek closer relations with pope

Clerics offer congratulations and proposals

Muslim leaders seek closer relations with pope
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

March 18, 2013

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Muslim leaders in indonesia have congratulated the new pope on his election and are hoping for increased cooperation with the Catholic Church. 

They say they have also prepared proposals which could help boost Catholic relations with Muslim groups within the country.  

“I hope [Pope Francis] will continue what his predecessors have done," Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, told at the weekend. "They have shown the commitment of the Catholic Church in bridging relations with other religions, including Islam.” 

He hoped that the newly elected pontiff will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two of the country’s biggest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.   

“It will stress how to make the relationship between Indonesian Muslims and the Vatican more harmonious. It will also include several points on the protection of Indonesian Catholics,” he said.

The MoU, he said, has been planned since Syamsuddin's visit to the Vatican in March of last year, when he met with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and  Andrea Riccardi, the Italian minister for international cooperation.

Popes including Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have played an important role in the dialogue between Islam and Christianity, Syamsuddin said. 

In April last year, the president of the Community of Sant’Egidio Marco Impagliazzo signed a similar MoU with Muhammadiyah to work together for the benefit of humanity.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Agus Mulyadi, an Islamic scholar from Nahdlatul Ulama, said he hopes Pope Francis will build personal relationships with Muslim leaders.

“Personal relationships will certainly bring vast impact on the relationships between the two religions,” he said.

He also hoped the pope will promote the values of tolerance to prevent conflict.

Nusron Wahid, chairman of Ansor Youth Movement (GP Ansor), the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, said Pope Francis' third-world background will help him understand the situation of people in Asia.

“I’m quite optimistic the pope will pay attention to the situation in developing nations, such as poverty,” he said. “He will definitely be sensitive to the marginalized who live in developing nations, including Indonesia."

Related report

Muslims, Catholics sign MoU on humanity

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