Catholics in Tunisia Are "Messengers of Hope," Says Bishop

ROME, FEB. 21, 2003 ( Trying to convey the sense of the limited Catholic presence in Tunisia, Bishop Fouad Twal of Tunis said: «We are messengers of hope amid a Muslim mass.»

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The bishop, who is on his quinquennial visit to the Holy See, appealed to all Catholics for «prayers, visits, … collaboration» with their brothers in that country, regarded as one of the safest and most stable of the Maghreb.

Despite the small size of the Catholic Church in Tunisia, the bishop said that «our strength does not come from structures or geopolitics but from God.»

«Our presence is nourished with faith, the sacraments and spiritual renewal, not just with social assistance, » the bishop said, as he explained the sociocultural and health initiatives offered by Catholics in the capital.

«I am happy with the Pope’s and episcopal conferences’ position against the war» in Iraq, Bishop Twal said. Along with the rest of North Africa’s bishops, he fears the consequences that the war would entail for his country.

The Statistical Yearbook of the Catholic Church reports a total of 22,000 baptized Catholics in Tunisia, a country with a total population of close to 10 million, 98% of whom are Muslim.

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