The Holy See
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ID AL-FITR 1420 A.H./2000 A.D


Dear Muslim Friends,

1. This year you will be celebrating 'Id al-Fitr a few days after the Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus, an event which is central to the Christian faith. For Christians, the Year 2000 takes on special importance since we shall be celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus. This is above all a Christian feast, but we would wish you to be associated with it. This is why I should like to share with you some reflections on the importance of Jesus.

2. For Christianity, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. He is a prophet, but more than a prophet.
As Pope John Paul II declared during his meeting with young Muslims in Casablanca, Morocco, on 19 August 1985 : "Loyalty demands also that we should recognize and respect our differences. Obviously the most fundamental is the view that we hold on the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. You know that, for Christians, this Jesus causes them to enter into an intimate knowledge of the mystery of God and into filial communion by his gifts, so that they recognize him and proclaim him Lord and Saviour. This way of understanding Jesus does not in any way infringe upon the monotheism of Christians. In fact the Christian profession of faith begins: "I believe in one God, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible". According to the Christian vision, the oneness of God is not lived in isolation, but rather in a communion of life and love: this is the inscrutable mystery of the Trinity.

3. With regard to Jesus, as in other fields, we are called as Christians and Muslims to know and respect the religious convictions of the other, to discover that which unites us and what makes us different. Knowing and respecting these convictions does not necessarily imply sharing them. To be able to speak about them objectively and with respect forms part of the way we should behave as persons of belief. Cannot the social and spiritual message of Jesus be considered to constitute a common heritage ?

4. We think that all people, but especially Muslims, can share with us the values that we have received from Jesus: total obedience to the will of God witness, given to the truth, humility in behaviour, control of one's speech, justice in one’s actions, mercy shown in deeds, love towards all, pardon granted for wrong done, maintaining peace with all brothers and sisters. Jesus is the man of suffering and also the man of hope. Like us, but even more than us, he has been lowly, poor, humiliated, a worker, oppressed, suffering ( cf. the homily of Pope Paul VI in Manila, 29 November 1970). Is not Jesus thus a model and a permanent message for humanity ?

5. At the moment of entering into a new Millennium, we Christians and Muslims, together with the followers of other religions and all men and women of good will, all have something to receive from the message of Jesus: a message of mercy and pardon, of charity and fraternity, of justice and peace.

6. It is in this spirit that I am happy to address to you my best wishes for a joyful feast and a life of peace and serenity.


Cardinal Francis Arinze