Dialogue Between Cultures and Religions Seen as Key Challenge

Pope Addresses New Moroccan Ambassador to Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Dialogue between cultures and religions is the most important challenge on the international scene, John Paul II said when receiving the new Moroccan ambassador to the Vatican.

“The difficult and disturbing circumstances of the international situation strongly challenge men of good will to reinforce bonds of trust among themselves and the conviction to act together in favor of dialogue and peace,” the Holy Father explained today.

The Pontiff was referring to the post-Sept. 11 international crisis, as well as the repercussions from the Mideast conflict.

As he did at the Jan. 24 meeting of religious leaders in Assisi, John Paul II emphasized the duty of “leaders of nations and spiritual authorities” to “make tireless efforts so that violence will lose ground, which too often governs relations between men and groups in our world.”

He appealed to these leaders “to clearly denounce all false legitimization of violence, especially in the name of religion, and to affirm plainly their commitment to dialogue and peace.”

Referring to the strife in the Holy Land, the Pope insisted on the need “to renew negotiations between the conflicting parties,” because “armed conflict has no way out and gives no perspective or hope.”

“Only courageous dialogue, inspired by the will to construct a future that is possible for all the earth´s inhabitants, as well as for the communities that live in it, will be able to bring a just and lasting peace,” he emphasized.

John Paul II invited Morocco to become a bridge on “the one hand, toward Western Europe and all the countries that are located around the Mediterranean, already united by a long common history; and on the other, toward sub-Saharan Africa, which migratory currents bring close to the Magreb.”

Morocco, a constitutional monarchy with 30.6 million inhabitants, is 98.7% Muslim. Christians constitute 1.1% of the population, and Jews 0.2%.

Its ambassador to the Vatican is Mohammed Sbihi, 53, a former envoy to Angola and U.N. institutions in Geneva.

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