Addressing a group of visiting Nigerian bishops today, the Holy Father explained that "honesty and openness to dialogue is a necessary Christian attitude both inside the community as well as outside, with other believers and with men and women of good will."
"An erroneous or incomplete understanding of inculturation or ecumenism, however, must not compromise the duty to evangelize, which is an essential element of the Catholic identity," John Paul II stressed.
The Pope addressed this decisive question for Nigeria -- a country of 126 million mostly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims -- when he met with a second group of bishops from this African nation, during their quinquennial "ad limina" visit to Rome.
"The Church, while showing great respect and esteem for the non-Christian religions professed by many Africans, cannot fail to sense the urgency of bringing the Good News to millions who have not yet heard Christ´s saving message," the Holy Father continued.
"The Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ -- riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth," John Paul II concluded.