Pope: Christians An Asset To Muslim Countries

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2009 (Zenit.org) - Benedict XVI is affirming that Christians add a richness to Muslim-majority countries.

The Pope said this in a message written on his behalf by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and sent to a conference Monday sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The conference was on “The Value of the Churches in the Middle East: Christians and Muslims Discuss Together.”

In the message, the Holy Father expressed the hope that the Middle East will be “a land of dialogue and fraternal collaboration, mutual respect and peace, thanks to the responsible contribution of all believers who live in it.”  The letter, published Monday by L’Osservatore Romano, stated that the issue discussed in the meeting has a “clear religious and social significance.”

The meeting, the papal statement said, “is one more step in the patient and beneficial journey of dialogue between Christians and Muslims on [topics] of mutual interest.” In particular, it affirmed, the congress confronts the “crucial” issue “of the presence of Christian communities in regions of strong Islamic supremacy.”

The statement encouraged congress participants “to bring to light, also thanks to the involvement of key representatives of the Islamic world, how the presence of Christians in the Middle East represents a true richness for the whole society and a significant guarantee of social, cultural and religious development.” The letter stated that the Pope “invokes divine blessings on the important meeting, and fervently [hopes] that useful elements will emerge in it that will make the dialogue between Christians and Muslims increasingly fraternal, especially in regions where Christians are a minority.”

Cardinal Bertone also recalled Benedict XVI’s speech to the Islamic representatives in Cologne in August 2005 and his meeting in November 2008 with participants in the Catholic-Muslim forum promoted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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