Saturday, 17 January 2009

Christian unity and interfaith dialogue

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Ireland notes in The Irish Times today (Saturday, 17 January 2009) includes the following reports:

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity next week, Church of Ireland congregations will share in ecumenical services in their own churches and in the churches of fellow Christians...

In the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, as part of the programme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the speaker at the Eucharist on Wednesday will be Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times.

The celebrant of the Eucharist will be Mr McGarry’s former colleague, Canon Patrick Comerford, former Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times, who is Director of Spiritual Formation at the institute.

The National Bible Society of Ireland has published Canon Comerford’s lecture in the Bedell Boyle lecture series in a new publication: Reflections of the Bible in the Qur’an: a Comparison of Scriptural traditions in Christianity and Islam.

This new publication says that Muslims respect Jews, Christians and Muslims as “people of the book”, sharing a common scriptural tradition, based on the Torah or first five books of the Bible, the psalms and the gospels. The Koran includes many Biblical stories, with numerous parallels of the Gospel stories in the Koran.

In his new publication, Canon Comerford also explores the place of Jesus in later Islamic traditions, including the hadith, apocalyptic and Arabic literary traditions, and Sufi poetry, and examines both the Muslim view of the Bible and the attitude towards the Bible found in the Koran and in Islamic teachings.

His lecture in the Milltown Institute was chaired and introduced by the Augustinian Biblical scholar and former president of the National Bible Society of Ireland, the Rev Dr Kieran O’Mahony.

In his introduction to this publication, Prof O’Mahony, writes: “In these days of closer social contacts between Muslims and Christians, a sympathetic reading of each other’s scriptures and traditions is all the more needed.”

He says the “eirenic presentation of Muslim teaching on Jesus and other biblical figures makes an ideal and highly-informative opening up for the non-Muslim”.

Reflections of the Bible in the Qur’an: a Comparison of Scriptural Traditions in Christianity and Islam by Canon Comerford is available from the National Bible Society of Ireland, 41 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.