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ROMA, February 2008 – Within one month, on March 4 and 5, there will be held in Rome the first meetings in preparation for the scheduled visit to the Vatican of a representative group of the 138 Muslim scholars who in October of 2007 addressed to the pope and to the heads of the other Christian confessions a letter with an offer of dialogue entitled "A Common Word Between Us and You."

The meetings will be held at the pontifical council for interreligious dialogue, presided by cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The schedule arranges for the Muslim representatives to meet with Benedict XVI and other Church authorities beginning next spring. And they will hold study sessions in institutes like the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, the PISAI, headed by Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot.

The Muslim delegation will be composed of five Muslims scholars from as many nations:

– Ibrahim Kalin, from Turkey, director of the SETA foundation in Ankara and a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.;

– Abd al-Hakim Murad Winter, from England, a professor of Islamic studies at the Shaykh Zayed Divinity School of the University of Cambridge, and director of the Muslim Academic Trust of the United Kingdom;

– Sohail Nakhooda, from Jordan, director of "Islamica Magazine," an international magazine edited in the United States;

– Aref Ali Nayed, from Libya, a member of the Interfaith Program of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, a former teacher at the International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization in Malaysia, and at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Rome;

– Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, from Italy, imam of the al-Wahid mosque in Milan, president of the ISESCO council for education and culture in the West, and vice-president of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy, the COREIS.

All of these are part of the group of experts coordinated from Amman by Jordan's Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, president of the al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, the leading promoter of the letter of the 138 and the protagonist behind the exchange of events that took place in November and December with Benedict XVI, through cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone, in preparation for the future meetings.

Of the five, the best known among the Vatican authorities and experts are Aref Ali Nayed and Yahya Pallavicini.