Pope: St. Francis the model for dialogue with Muslims

In his audience last Wednesday, Pope Benedict spoke about the model St. Francis provides for dialogue with other religions, particularly Islam. Francis met in 1210 with the leading Muslim leader, Sultan Malik al-Kamil, in Egypt:

“I want to underline this episode in the life of St. Francis because of its great relevance. At a time when there was a conflict between Christianity and Islam, Francis — armed only with his faith and his personal meekness — successfully followed the path of dialogue,” the pope said.

St. Francis’ desire to speak to the sultan and the sultan’s cordial welcome is “a model that must inspire relations between Christians and Muslims today as well, promoting a dialogue in truth, mutual respect and understanding,” he said.

Commonweal blogger Paul Moses, who wrote about Francis’s meeting with the Sultan in The Saint and the Sultan, found the pope’s words notable:

What struck me is that the pope’s view of this encounter is similar to that taken by the Franciscan order, which sees the meeting between Francis and the sultan as source and inspiration to its emphasis on inter-religious dialogue. Benedict even uses that sometimes controversial word “dialogue.” That isn’t what I would have expected from someone who was put off by John Paul II’s Franciscan-influenced “spirit of Assisi” approach.

Moses goes on to say that Benedict’s seems to reject St. Bonaventure’s account of the meeting Francis had with the Sultan. He further hopes the remarks will lead some to reconsider their approach to relations with Muslims. 


Zoe Romanowsky


Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Godspy.com. Zo

  • mark

    It would have been ideal zealous catholics religious
    and lay, could have gone to Gitmo to encourage, and offer
    example to the dedicated muslims.

  • Kamilla


    Upon your earlier recommendation – I did go out and buy “The Saint and the Sultan”. It’s slowly working its way to the top of my bedside reading stack.


  • Joe DeCarlo

    According to the New Testament, Christians are not supposed to associate with non-believers.

    • m parker

      How can the Gospel be spread then?

  • poetcomic1

    The violent, central teachings of Islam are immutable (and so dialogue is futile). Islam is inherently evil. It is not ‘another’ religion such as Hinduism or Buddhism. It is an outright diabolic distortion of both Judaism and Christianity. It is a true heresy of our faith. Islam is actively at war with Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, Animism, Bahai and of course Muslims are daily busy killing other Muslims. It was is and always will be the enemy of humanity and most particularly the church which it openly despises.

    • Gigahoo

      True. But one has to distinguish between the religion and its adherents, who vary greatly in their adherence and interpretation, and openness to the truth. In Africa Christianity is converting the Muslims in large numbers. .

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