Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Do we worship the same God as the God of Islam?

Nostra Aetate included the quote that has stirred controversy in Catholic websites. This is taken from the document:

3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

The footnote--(5)--attributes this to St. Gregory VII, letter XXI to Anzir (Nacir), King of Mauritania (Pl. 148, col. 450f.)

I found this website dedicated to the subject which claims that there was actually no King Anzir, Nacir, Nasir, or Naseer in Morocco in 1076.

Setting that issue aside, the website also gives what is said to be the pertinent part of the text making the claim:

...we believe and confess one God, although in different ways, and praise and worship Him daily as the creator of all ages and the ruler of this world.

This, of course, also indicates that both religions "confess one God" but it does not say that both religions confess the SAME God. In any case the passage is contained in a supposed letter to the King of Mauretania, not in an infallible encyclical. The matter appears far more political than theological.

There are words of another pope that are pertinent here. Blessed Urban II (1088-99) was an assistant to Gregory VII. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

About 1070 he retired to Cluny and was professed there under the great abbot St. Hugh. After holding the office of prior he was sent by St. Hugh to Rome as one of the monks asked for by Gregory VII, and he was of great assistance to Gregory in the difficult task of reforming the Church.

Pope Urban spoke at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The object of his speech was to inspire the first Crusade. There are five versions of the speech. The following is taken from Robert the Monk's account:

From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion.

Does that sound as though we worship the same God?

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