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  • Book Title:
 Trialogue Of The Abrahamic Faiths
  • Book Author:
Ismail Riji al Faruqi
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The Catholic Church and the Jewish and Muslim faiths:

Trialogue of the three Abrahamic faiths

The late Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli The Vatican

“You shall be the father of a host of nations” (Gen. 17:4)

It is an honor for me to have been asked to give this address by the American Academy of Religion. I am happy to give it, not only because the invitation comes from sincere “friends of God”, but also because I am convinced that the theme on which I have been invited to speak corresponds to a deeply felt need in the world of today.

namely, the question of the presence of God and of religious values in the history of individuals and entire peoples. The faith of Abraham, who is rightly considered by our three religions as “the father of our faith”, will be the subject of my reflections.

I shall remain within the limits of its essential values and not enter into a consideration of the differences of these religions, united as they are in their acceptance of Abrahamic faith and in their considering it to be a source of inspiration and a guide for human life, capable of giving a satisfactory response to the essential problems of man.


I think it is superfluous for me to say that since our purpose is to consider in its substance this faith which so happily unites us, there is no need for me to go back over past history with its tale of mutual misunderstandings, injustices, faults, lack of generosity and so on. It would have no point, since the purpose of our meeting is that it should be one of friendship.

Certainly we must study the past and learn from it, but life must above all look to the present and to the future. The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said: “If a man has turned away from sin and left it behind him, then the good God looks on that man as if he had never sinned … If He finds him well disposed, God does not consider what he has been: God is a God oft he present; as He finds you,

so He takes you and accepts you. He does not ask what you have been,

but what you are now”.

Our faith in God

The faith we have inherited from Abraham has as its central pivot a monotheism free from uncertainties or equivocations: we profess one God, a God who is personal, the Creator of the world, provident, active in history but separated from it by an infinite gulf, the judge of men’s actions, and who has spoken to men through the prophets.

The Sacred Books and the traditions of our three religions admit no shadow of doubt on this fundamental point. This basic unity of faith is of such importance that it allows us to consider our differences with serenity and with a sense of perspective: it does not mean that we minimize these differences and still less that we renounce the points that separate us.

But it does mean that we can speak together in an atmosphere of understanding and friendship, because we are all “believers in the same God”! Without rejecting the word “dialogue”, so rich in meaning and in the spirit of brotherhood.

I would prefer to use the word “encounter” since it seems to express more vividly the fact that all of us, as individuals and as communities (Jews, Christians and Muslims), are vitally “committed” to giving absolute priority of respect, submission and love to the One God who accompanies us with His providence and who, at the end of time, will judge us “according to the Law of right and wrong which He has written in our heart” (Newman).

Throughout the centuries our three religions of prophetic monotheism have remained unswerving in adherence to their faith, in spite of the dissensions and differences regarding points to which we will refer later.


It is sufficient here to recall explicit expressions as given in key texts: “Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord is our God, one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength. These commandments which I give you this day are to be kept in your heart;

you shall repeat them to your sons, and speak of them indoors and out of doors, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on the hand and wear them as a phylactery on the forehead; write them up on the doorposts of your houses and your gates” (Deut. 6: 4-9).

Even the Romans, jealous of the imperial authority that they regarded as invested with divine power, had to accept Jewish insistence that to God alone was reserved a name “which had no equal”. This name was above any sovereignty, including that of Caesar, and the Roman insignia with the Capitoline gods were not allowed into the holy city of Jerusalem.

Every attempt to flout this norm was vigorously resisted; no persecution succeeded in breaking it. The identical phenomenon was found in Christianity: its fidelity to the One God, with the exclusion of any other divinity, was the fact that revealed to the Roman authorities the true nature of Christianity and its irreconcilability with paganism.

As regards the faith of Islam, we have only to read again that wonderful list of the ninety-nine most beautiful names of God (Asmi Allah al ~usna) to be forcibly aware of the unshakeable and jealously guarded Muslim faith in the One God of Abraham.

View of C.S. Lewis


If what C.S. Lewis asserts is true, namely that “the geography of the spiritual world is different from that of the physical world: in the physical world contact between countries is at the frontiers, in the spiritual world contact is at the centre”, then we can say that the Jewish-Christian-Muslim world make contact and meet at the very heart of a common faith.

This religious affinity has always met with difficulties and it would be dishonest not to acknowledge this. However, there have always been through the centuries, thanks to the merciful God to whom we lift up our hearts, examples of mutual understanding and even collaboration.

We can think, for example, in the high Middle Ages of the Toledo conversations and of those at Cordoba, where, in the very palace of the Archbishop, Christians, Muslims and Jews met together in discussion. We could think too of the writings of Maimonides, Ibn Rushd and al Fiirabi, and of St. Thomas, writings that influenced one another and contributed not a little to the forming of medieval civilization.


For a time during the Middle Ages, Arabic was the language most commonly used among Jewish writers. A significant example is “The Introduction to the Duties of the Heart” by Bahya ibn Paquda; it was written in Arabic, translated into Hebrew, and, a later time, was also to come to the attention of Christians. It is in this work that we find a quotation, evidently taken from the Gospel of Matthew, 5: 33-37, and with reference to Jesus:


“A wise ulan said to his disciples: the Law permits us to swear the truth in the name of the Lord, but I say to you never swear either for the truth or for falsehood. Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no”‘. Raymond Lull understood in depth the common platform of the three religions and the good that could derive from it: we see this in “The Book of the Pagan and the Three Wise Men” (1277).

Nicholas of Cusa in his work “De pace fidei” wrote of the harmony of the three great religions and of its possible influence for the peace of the woild. It should be noted that he wrote this work immediately after the fall of Constantinople, a time when others were thinking of launching a crusade to recapture it

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