Benedict XVI Praises Bishops' Dialogue

Says Christians in North Africa Key for Cultural Exchange

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says there is an absolute need for dialogue between religions and cultures and expressed his joy that this interchange is part of daily life for North African bishops.



The Pope received the bishops of the regional conference of Northern Africa, comprising Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, at the end of their five-yearly visit on Saturday.

In these countries, small Catholic communities live amid a majority of Muslim faithful.

The Holy Father told the prelates: "We have an absolute need for an authentic dialogue between religions and cultures -- a dialogue capable of helping us to jointly overcome all tensions with a spirit of fruitful understanding."

The Pontiff expressed his joy upon hearing "that through initiatives aimed at dialogue and meeting places, such as study centers and libraries," the North African bishops are "decisively committed to the development and deepening of relationships of esteem and respect between Christians and Muslims, which promote reconciliation, justice and peace."

"Through the sharing of everyday life, Christians and Muslims can find the basis for a better mutual knowledge," he affirmed.

Authentic solidarity

Benedict XVI continued: "Through a fraternal participation in each other's joys and sorrows, particularly in the most important moments of life, and also through multiple collaborative efforts in the fields of health, education, culture and service to the poor, you show an authentic solidarity that strengthens the bonds of trust and friendship among individuals, families and communities."

The Holy Father presented North African Catholics with the example of Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), who was slain in the Sahara and whose charism has inspired 10 religious congregations and eight associations for apostolic life.

The Pope urged: "May Christians in your countries be faithful witnesses to the universal fraternity that Christ has taught his disciples!"