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Thursday, November 6, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received the Letters of Credence of Lamia Aly Hamada Mekhemar, the new ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See.

  In his address to her the Holy Father spoke of "Egypt's many efforts to favour peace and harmony, and to seek solutions that respect States and persons", indicating that these efforts "concord with those of the Holy See which also strives to favour and promote" such things.

  "Religions", he said, "can and must be factors of peace. Yet despite everything they can be poorly understood and used to provoke violence and death. Respecting the sensibilities and history of each country and of each human or religious community, ... and above all an authentic desire to seek peace, favours the reconciliation of peoples and the peaceful coexistence of everyone".

  After highlighting how Egypt "has always been known as a land of hospitality for countless refuges, both Muslim and Christian, who have sought security and peace in its territory", Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "this noble tradition many continue for the good of everyone".

  Referring then to the reciprocal understanding and respect between Islam and Christianity, the Pope pointed out that although much progress has been made in this field, "there still remains a long way to go".

  "What is important above all", he continued, "is to promote good mutual understanding. This cannot be limited to a restricted group of dialogue but little by little must irradiate out to the people who in their daily lives, in cities and villages, have to develop a mentality of reciprocal respect, one that can lead to mutual esteem".

  The Holy Father indicated that the Catholic community in Egypt, despite being very small, "demonstrates the great diversity that exists in out Church and the possibility of harmonious coexistence between the great Eastern and Western traditions. Their historic social commitment to the people of Egypt in the fields of education, healthcare and charity work, bears witness to a gratuitous love that knows no religious distinction. This is something understood and appreciated by Egyptian society as a whole".

  "In your country, the Catholic Church also wants to enter into contact with the many visiting Catholic tourists who wish to practice their religion. I am convinced that they will soon be given the chance to pray to God in a dignified fashion at appropriate places of worship in the new tourist sites that have come into being in the last few years. It would be a good signal to the world if Egypt were to favour relations of friendship and fraternity among religions and peoples, in accordance with its ancient and noble traditions".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received participants in the First Seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum. The event has been organised by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and by the 138 Muslim representatives who, on 13 October 2007, sent an open letter to the Pope and to other heads of Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities.

  In his English-language remarks to them, the Pope noted that the open letter "has received numerous responses, and has given rise to dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values. The great interest which the present seminar has awakened is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day".

  The Holy Father pointed out that the theme chosen for the meeting, "Love of God, Love of Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect", highlights "even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions. ... Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own".

  "I was pleased to learn that you were able at this meeting to adopt a common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence.

  "For Christians", he added, "the love of God is inseparably bound to the love ... of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. ... The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy. ... We should thus work together in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways. There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage".

  The Pope continued: "Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike - only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralised.

  "My hope", he went on, " is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual's freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God.

  "God's name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves".

  "Let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements", Pope Benedict concluded. "Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences five prelates from the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Archbishop Edmundo Luis Flavio Abastoflor Montero of la Paz, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Omar Aparicio Cespedes.

    - Bishop Juan Vargas Aruquipa of Coroico.

    - Bishop Toribio Ticona Porco, prelate of the territorial prelature of Corocoro, accompanied by Bishop Jesus Agustin Lopez de Lama C.P., prelate emeritus.
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