Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Opens to Support Islamic American Communities

Father Gregory Rannazzisi chats with Muslim men during an open house in 2010 at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, N.Y. Father Rannazissi, a member of the ecumenical and interfaith commission of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., is the diocese's liaison with Long Island's Muslim population. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – An emerging Catholic dialogue with Muslims aims to show public support for Islamic American communities. The dialogue stems from concerns expressed by U.S. bishops in the wake of “a serious uptick in violence against American Muslims … to make sure that they are sensitive to what is going on in the (Muslim) communities,” said Anthony Cirelli, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The dialogue, underway since last February, will build on three already existing regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues, also overseen by the secretariat. Those gatherings have involved Muslim and Christian scholars and religious leaders and have focused largely on academic discussions and comparisons of their respective religious texts, Cirelli said. The regional dialogues – mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast – have been effective in creating a better understanding among Muslim and Catholic leaders on a theological level, Cirelli explained. The national dialogue also will help Muslim leaders to better advocate for current concerns, “especially with the incoming (U.S.) administration,” said Cirelli, referring to calls by President-elect Donald J. Trump and others to monitor American Muslims and limit entry of Muslim visitors from abroad.