And if John Paul II, with his speech in Morocco showed himself, from the beginning, as farseeing in the relationship with Islam, with the trip to Syria in 2001 he highlighted that the Holy See is anxious for Catholics to respect the values of Jews and Muslims, asking those who belong to the three religions to promote justice, which is an essential condition for peace. In his visit to Damascus, the Pope also highlighted the necessity of applying UN resolutions in the Middle East. Cordially welcomed by President Bachar El Assad, by the political and religious authorities both Christian and Muslim- as well as by the Syrian population, he gave a speech of exceptional importance in the Great Mosque of Damascus.
I think it is legitimate to read this speech in the light of the Letter of the Patriarchs of the Churches of the Middle East (1994), where at n. 48 it is highlighted that: «We (Christians and Muslims) are founded on a unique inheritance of civility. Each of us has contributed to our enlargement according to his own genius. Our relationship of civility is our historical patrimony. We must preserve it, develop it, strengthen it and revitalise it, so that it may be the foundation of our coexistence and of our reciprocal respect as brothers and sisters. The Christians of the Middle East are an inseparable part of the cultural identity of Muslims. In the same way, Muslims are an inseparable part of the cultural identity of Christians. For this reason, we are both responsible before God and history».
As is evident in both speeches, John Paul II continues to invite Christians and Muslims to work together -and with all other people- in order to promote religious and moral values, through «an inter-religious dialogue which is most effective when it comes from the experience of living with one another, every day, in the bosom of the same community and culture».