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Friday, July 2, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received the Letters of Credence of Habbeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, the new ambassador of Iraq to the Holy See.

  The Pope asked the diplomat to convey to President Jalal Talabani his respectful greetings and assurances of his prayers "for the peace and well-being" of all Iraqis. With the elections of March this year, he said, the people of Iraq "gave a clear sign to the world that they wish to see an end to violence, and that they have chosen the path of democracy through which they aspire to live in harmony with one another within a just, pluralist and inclusive society. ... It is to be hoped that the formation of a new government will now proceed swiftly so that the will of the people for a more stable and unified Iraq may be accomplished".

  In this context the Pope gave assurances that the Holy See, "which has always valued its excellent diplomatic relations with your country, will continue to provide whatever assistance it can, so that Iraq may assume its rightful place as a leading nation in the region with much to contribute to the international community".

  Continuing his English-language address, Benedict XVI expressed the view that "the new government will need to give priority to measures designed to improve security for all sectors of the population, particularly the various minorities", in which context he noted how, "since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have been present in the land of Abraham, a land which is part of the common patrimony of Judaism, Christianity and Islam".

  "Although Christians form a small minority of Iraq's population, they have a valuable contribution to make to its reconstruction and economic recovery through their educational and healthcare apostolates, while their engagement in humanitarian projects provides much-needed assistance in building up society. If they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld".

  The Holy Father also spoke of the "many tragic acts of violence committed against innocent members of the population, both Muslim and Christian, acts which ... are contrary to the teachings of Islam as well as those of Christianity. This shared suffering can provide a deep bond, strengthening the determination of Muslims and Christians alike to work for peace and reconciliation. History has shown that some of the most powerful incentives to overcome division come from the example of those men and women who, having chosen the courageous path of non-violent witness to higher values, lost their lives through cowardly acts of violence". At this point the Pope mentioned Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho and Fr. Ragheed Ganni. "May their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of so many others like them", he said, "strengthen within the Iraqi people the moral determination that is necessary if political structures for greater justice and stability are to achieve their intended effect".

  Speaking then of the Iraqi government's commitment to respect human rights, the Pope noted that "among the rights that must be fully respected if the common good is to be effectively promoted, the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of worship are paramount, since it is they that enable citizens to live in conformity with their transcendent dignity. ... I therefore hope and pray that these rights will not only be enshrined in legislation, but will come to permeate the very fabric of society. All Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral and peaceable environment".

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the forthcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East which, he said, "will provide a welcome opportunity to explore the role and the witness of Christians in the lands of the Bible, and will also give an impetus to the important task of inter-religious dialogue, which has so much to contribute to the goal of peaceful coexistence in mutual respect and esteem among the followers of different religions.

  "It is my earnest hope", he added in conclusion, "that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and co-operation among Muslims, Christians and others in the service of those most in need".
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