Bishop Kieran refers to Nostra Aetate as grounds for the need to understand Islam and, in particular, to reach out to Muslims. The quote from the document His Lordship cites is this: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.”
Blessed Pope John Paul II too discussed this document in his book 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope.' Discussing Buddhism and Hinduism, Blessed Pope John Paul II said:
Further along, the Council remarks that: 'The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. The Church has a high regard for their conduct and way of life, for those precepts and doctrines which, although differing on many points from that which the Church believes and propounds, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.'
Bl. Pope John Paul II went on to say:
'However, the Church proclaims, and is bound to proclaim that Christ is 'the way and the truth and the life [Jn 14:6], in whom men must find the fullness of religious life and in whom God has reconciled everything to Himself (Nostra Aetate 2). The words of the Council recall the conviction, long rooted in the Tradition, of the existence of the so-called semina Verbi (seeds of the Word), present in all religions. In the light of this conviction, the Church seeks to identity the semina Verbi present in the great traditions of the Far East, in order to trace a common path against the backdrop of the needs of the contemporary world. We can affirm that here the position of the Council is inspired by a truly universal concern. The Church is guided by the faith that God the Creator wants to save all humankind in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as He is the Redeemer of all humankind. The Pascal Mystery is equally available to all, and, through it, the way to salvation is open to all. In another passage the Council says that the Holy Spirit works effectively even outside the visible structure of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium 13), making use of these very semina Verbi, that constitute a kind of common soteriological root present in all religions.'
'“Very often our image of Islam is simply the one presented by the media, and how often do we complain that the media view distorts the reality of the Catholic Church? We must not in our minds associate the word ‘Muslim’ with any of the negative and pejorative terms often linked to it in the media.”
He said that inter-religious dialogue was “not just a dialogue of charity”, but also a “dialogue of hope.” “Hope and trust in God who wills all people to be saved and who, in Christ and the Holy Spirit, is already at work in all that is true and holy in other religions,” said Bishop Conry.'
While Bl. Pope John Paul II praised the religiosity of Muslims and their fidelity to prayer, he also had this to say of Islam:
'Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam, all the richness of God's self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitively been set aside.
Some of the beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God with us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammed. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.'
Having noted the warm welcome he himself received in some Muslim counties, Bl. Pope John Paul II noted that:
'Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking. In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately interpreted in a very one-sided way - religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the "true religion". In these countries the situation of Christians is sometimes terribly disturbing. Fundamentalist attitudes of this nature make reciprocal contacts very difficult. All the same, the Church remains always open to dialogue and cooperation.'
The then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, delved deeper into these pressing questions in the document 'Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church'.
While, of course, we must indeed reach out to Muslims in a spirit of fraternal charity and always with respect, surely, at this time when Christians are suffering so much in Syria, Egypt and in many other lands where Islam is the dominant religion, Bishops should be careful not to offer too simplistic or narrow an understanding of Islam, especially when the religion poses a great threat at this time, not just to Christians, but to the political stability of whole nations? It would surely also be unwise for a Bishop to offer too simplistic a view of what the Catholic Church means when She discusses the value and respect that should be accorded to what is 'true and holy' in other religions?