Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Religious leaders across Michigan praised Pope Benedict XVI for his work in fostering interfaith relations.
Imam Hassan Qazwini, who has met Pope Benedict twice as religious leader of the biggest mosque in Michigan, said the Pope’s resignation was surprising and sad given what a positive leader he was.
Imam Qazwini, of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, praised the Pope for his efforts to promote dialogue between Catholics and Muslims, the two biggest religious groups in the world. And he lauded the Pope for his honesty in stepping down.
“I have so much admiration for the Pope, for being honest and humble,” Qazwini said. “The man was honest that he was no longer capable of keeping his duty because of his fragile health. That is truly to be admired. He’s someone who does not favor his selfish interests by insisting to stay in his position when he knows he no longer can function.”
Qazwini met with the Pope as part of delegations in 2006 at the Vatican and in 2008 when the Pope visited the U.S. Qazwini remembered him as being courteous in person.
“He sounded very welcoming, very humble,” Qazwini said.
In 2006, Pope Benedict had made some remarks about Islam and reason that were “viewed negatively by the Muslim world,” Qazwini said. “But after that, I think he tried his best to reach out of the Muslim world. He kind of apologized, not just through words, but practically to amend the relationship with the Muslim world, something we should really respect for doing.”
Qazwini hopes the next Pope will continue the dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.
Rev. Bob Cornwall, a Protestant pastor with Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, agreed with Qazwini’s praise of the Pope for stepping down rather than serving until he dies.
“This is a rather dramatic step, which could set precedent,” Cornwall said. “Future Popes could make the same decision, choosing retirement rather than fade away, putting the church at risk. Personally, I think this step should be commended.”
At the same time, Cornwall said that “as an ecumenically minded, progressive, Protestant pastor, I’ve not been a big fan of Benedict. I’ve felt he was dragging the church well to the right, undermining the reforms of Vatican II.”
Kari Alterman, director of the Detroit office of the American Jewish Committee, praised the Pope, noting his efforts to promote Catholic-Jewish relations.
She said: “We wish Pope Benedict XVI well. Through his visits to synagogues, Holocaust memorial sites and the State of Israel, Benedict has demonstrated his commitment to sustaining and advancing Catholic-Jewish relations.”
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also praised Qazwini: “Though he started his papacy on rocky terms with the Muslim community, he repeatedly called for Muslim-Christian cooperation in ending the international disease of violence. We hope that his successor calls for even more cooperation between Muslims and Christians to end injustice in America and around the globe.”
Padma Kuppa, a Troy resident who’s on the executive council of the Hindu American Foundation, said: “There’s an opportunity with Pope Benedict’s retirement to promote pluralism…It will help promote peace and reduce religious tensions arising from exclusivism.”