(RNS) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Monday (Feb. 8) that it was starting a new National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue group, an initiative driven in part by growing anti-Islamic sentiment that many bishops have denounced.
“As the national conversation around Islam grows increasingly fraught, coarse and driven by fear and often willful misinformation, the Catholic Church must help to model real dialogue and good will,” Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Mass., said in a statement.
Rozanski is head of the bishops’ ecumenical and interreligious committee, which has sponsored three regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues during the past two decades.
“Our current dialogues have advanced the goals of greater understanding, mutual esteem and collaboration between Muslims and Catholics, and the members have established lasting ties of friendship and a deep sense of trust,” he said.
Rozanski said Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich would head up the Catholic side of “this crucial conversation” starting on Jan. 1 next year.
But it was not immediately clear who the Muslim co-chair would be or what Islamic groups might take part.
(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)