First of all we naturally have in mind the Catholics of the different rites, who in the Middle East show a vitality that is considerably superior to their number. To know and to study the Pope’s teaching in depth is undoubtedly the best way to strengthen the greatest gift that the Lord has left His disciples: that communio that unites men of different peoples and cultures, managing to create, according to the bold expression of Paul VI, ‘an ethnic entity sui generis’. We are however certain that the volume will receive a warm welcome also among the Christian brothers of the other Churches and ecclesial communities, often of ancient tradition, at times born following Paul’s preaching. To go to the roots of common faith by tracing the main phases of the life of this Champion of the Gospel will be the occasion to rediscover our common Christian inheritance.
Lastly, it is our hope that the book will also be diffused in the Islamic world. It is well known how different Muslim thinkers and theologians, even before the arrival of the modern nineteenth-century critique, expressed strong doubts concerning the reliability of the Pauline scripts, accusing the apostle of having altered the original Christian message. The Pope dedicated various pages to this thesis, highlighting the elements which from a Christian point of view demonstrate the complete continuity between the Pauline announcement and the mission of the Resurrected Crucifix.
It is evident to all that one of the most urgent needs of our time is better reciprocal knowledge among the believers of the different religions. It therefore becomes fundamental that Christians and Muslims can know the vision that others have of them and their faith, without reducing it to within their own categories a priori. This is moreover the example that is offered to us by some of the highest representatives of the Arab-Islamic civilisation, like the scientist al-Bîrûnî who, without giving up his Muslim faith, gave such an accurate summary of the Indian civilisation that it has kept its document value up to present day. The non-Christian reader is therefore certain to find a reliable presentation of who St. Paul was and what his role is in Christianity. To know the point of view held by over one billion believers with regard to this exceptional figure is of undeniable cultural interest. Whether this point of view is also well-founded, each reader can verify this in the objective comparison with the historical data available.
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