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Pope renews call for dialogue with Islam

Churches should work together to fight poverty, injustice

29 April, 18:37
Pope renews call for dialogue with Islam (ANSA) - Vatican City, April 29 - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday renewed calls for Catholics to work closely with Islam in order to fight poverty and promote peace.

Receiving a delegation of bishops from The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the pontiff underscored the importance of interfaith dialogue. He said the African Catholic Church must "continue to promote dialogue with all other religions and above all with Islam".

"This is necessary in order to preserve current good relations and prevent all forms of intolerance, injustice or oppression, which damage the promotion of mutual trust," Benedict said. "Working together in defence of life, against hunger and disease builds understanding, respect and acceptance".

The pope said dialogue and reconciliation could produce "lasting respect for all God-given human rights".

Benedict also urged the African bishops to promote the concept of the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, "in an atmosphere marked by divorce and polygamy". Benedict has worked hard to mend relations with Islam since he upset Muslims around the world with comments he made in 2006, during a lecture in Regensburg, Germany.

Detractors interpreted his reference to a medieval emperor, who described Islam as a 'violent' religion, as an indication of his own views.

Since then, Benedict has stepped up efforts to make inter-religious dialogue a priority for his papacy. In an effort to demonstrate his commitment to fostering goodwill among religions he re-established the Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 2007 after having merged it with the Council for Culture at the start of his pontificate.

In late 2008, the Holy See hosted a series of historic talks between prominent Muslim and Catholic scholars aimed at forging closer ties between the world's two largest religions.

During his trip to the Holy Land in May 2009, the pope expressed his ''profound respect for the Muslim community'' and called on an ''alliance of civilizations'' to end religious violence and conflict.

The Vatican also signed a declaration with the Arab League last April, agreeing to work for peace around the world, especially in the Middle East.

There are some two billion Christians worldwide, about half of whom are Catholics. Muslims number around 1.3 billion.

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