Monday, March 27, 2006

Man on a Mission

Benedict XVI's February decision to send Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, previously president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on a journey into Egypt as apostolic nuncio to Cairo, has let a thousand theories bloom....

The BBC revisits the story as Fitzgerald prepares to leave Rome to take on his new duties.
Pope Benedict has said that religious leaders have a responsibility to "work for reconciliation through genuine dialogue".

The Englishman now has a key role in that process in Cairo, where the 22 members of the Arab League meet.

Archbishop Fitzgerald has not commented on the speculation surrounding his move, simply telling reporters: "My background in Arabic and Islamic studies is probably considered useful at this moment for the development of relations with Egypt and the rest of the Islamic world."....

This may be more than just a streamlining of Vatican bureaucracy. Some observers believe the new Pope wants to take a tougher line on the issue of "reciprocity".

It means that if Muslims benefit from religious freedom in the West, then Christians should have an equal right to follow their faith in Islamic states.

But while there is speculation that Pope Benedict may be looking for changes in the Church's approach to Islam, it should not be assumed that the English archbishop has been sidelined.