Vatican Official Says Anglican Head Naive on Sharia

Philip Pullella, Reuters, March 11, 2008

The Vatican’s top man for relations with Islam on Tuesday criticized the Archbishop of Canterbury as mistaken and “naive” for suggesting that some aspects of Sharia law in Britain were unavoidable.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in a wide-ranging discussion with reporters about Christian-Muslim relations, also said he was confident that a new, permanent body between the Vatican and Muslims would help defuse misunderstandings in the future.

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Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams sparked a religious and political storm in Britain and beyond last month when he raised the prospect of Islamic law in the United Kingdom.

Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, provoked a string of tabloid headlines with the best-selling Sun launching a campaign for him to quit.

“One can understand his good intentions but it seems to me he did not take into consideration either them (the Muslims), the English juridical system, or the reality of Sharia,” said Tauran, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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Tauran said: “It is not just a question of good will. There are juridical aspects that are not reconcilable (with Sharia).”

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Tauran will be the Vatican’s top man in a permanent official dialogue with Muslims to improve often difficult relations and heal wounds still open from a controversial papal speech in 2006.

The Catholic-Muslim Forum, agreed last week, will meet in Rome in November with 24 religious leaders and scholars from each side. Pope Benedict will address the group, due to meet formally every two years.

Catholic-Muslim relations nosedived in 2006 after Benedict delivered a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, that was taken by Muslims to imply that Islam was violent and irrational.

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