Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

Dialogue of Experience

A thirteenth century spiritual master, and a twentieth century monk, exemplify the prayerful encounter between Christianity and Islam, said Cardinal Vincent in an address at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on 27th February. St Francis of Assisi’s visit to the Sultan of Egypt in 1219 gave rise to a mutual esteem for the faith of each other. In the 1980s an Italian priest, Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, restored an ancient Syrian monastery as a place of prayer and encounter for Christians and Muslims.

All too often, said the Cardinal, relations between Christians and Muslims have been characterised by armed struggle and war, which demonise opposing parties. The ‘dialogue of experience’ can counter this aggressive narrative: it is when we come to know each other, study together, pray side by side, that we can sustain a hope that overcomes division. This is not to ‘water down’ the truths of our faith; sure faith in Christ enables us to reach out in love and understanding.

Cardinal Vincent gave moving testimony to this relationship from his own career. In Birmingham in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocity, faith leaders in the city came together in a sign of solidarity, and from this grew a new respect for each other. At Westminster, he has consulted with Muslim leaders, sharing experience of being a minority community and working together on issues such as education. Together the communities can speak to the political and social debates of our time, entering into a dialogue wherein faith both enriches and is enriched by the discourse of reason.

In the end, said the Cardinal, the dialogue between us will only be successful if it is a dialogue ‘underpinned by a quiet, contemplative approach to the beauty of each other’s belief, and a desire to live peaceably before God and together’.

Latest news
  • Cardinal Vincent with students from St Mary's University at the post-synod event in OctoberCardinal recovering after being taken ill at Remembrance Requiem

    On Remembrance Sunday, Cardinal Vincent was taken ill while celebrating the Solemn Requiem Mass of the Fallen in Westminster Cathedral and had to leave the sanctuary.

    more
  • Cardinal shares Synod reflections with young people

    On Tuesday 30 The gathering was opened by Diocesan Youth Chaplain Fr Mark Walker, who thanked the nearly 90 young people for coming to hear the reflections of the Cardinal and to discuss them with their peers. He led the audience in The Car...

    more
  • Dialogue of faith between generations

    by Cardinal Vincent Nichols My memories of sunshine in August may now have faded, but the sense of shock and shame that marked that month have not. In many ways it has been the most disturbing of times in the life of the Church for 50 years. Th...

    more