April 18th, 2008 14:59 EST
Can Pope create common ground for Catholics and Muslims?
US Muslim leaders have said they urged Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting to help establish a permanent dialogue between the two faiths.
"I told the pope: 'I met you two yeas ago at the Vatican and asked you then to lead efforts to establish permanent dialogue with Muslims,'" Imam Hassan Al-Qzwini, the religious director of the Islamic Center of America said at an impromptu news conference after the pope met with representatives of five faiths.
"I repeated that call today. Muslims and Catholics form over 50 per cent of the world's population and we are in desperate need of dialogue," he said.
Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Islamic Law Council of North America, said he had also called for more dialogue with the Church, and urged the Pope to use is influence to "bring stability to Lebanon."
"He said he would do his best," Siddiqi said.
Benedict met with leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish and Muslim faiths at an inter-religious meeting at the John Paul II Inter-cultural Center in Washington.
"Today in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and indeed children of all religions sit side by side, learning with and from one another," he told them.
"May others take heart from your experience, realising that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples, provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right."
Benedict began a six-day visit to the United States on Tuesday. On Wednesday he became the first pope in 30 years to visit the White House, where he and President George W Bush discussed the plight of Christians in war-torn Iraq, among other issues.