Holy See Stresses Need for Fostering Ties With Muslims

At Conclusion of Meeting in Syria

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See says the fostering of relations between Christians and Muslims is of decisive importance in the wake of the Iraqi war and the relaunching of Mideast peace efforts.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue made that point at the close of a meeting in Syria, held to evaluate relations with the Muslim world.

The pontifical council, presided over by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, gathered its members, consultors and a few guests to the July 7-9 meeting, held in the Catholic Greek-Melkite Patriarchate’s St. Thomas Convent in Saydnaya.

A statement issued today by the council said the participants, who came from Lebanon, Jordan, the Holy Land, Turkey, north Africa, France and Canada, presented reports «on the situation of Muslim-Christian relations in their respective countries.»

«The participants expressed great appreciation for the position of John Paul II, Catholic leaders, and leaders of other Churches in the world, on the Middle East, especially on peace in the world, the condemnation of the war against Iraq, and the request for a just and global peace for the Middle East, especially in Palestine,» the document explained.

«The participants in the meeting of Saydnaya emphasized the importance of the work carried out by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its role in the promotion of fraternal relations with Muslims throughout the world, something which has become even more important and urgent after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the war in Iraq, and the deterioration of the situation in Palestine,» it added.

Attendees at the opening ceremony included Syrian-Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas; Catholic Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Laham; Syrian-Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad; Patriarch Emeritus Jean Pierre XVIII Kasparian; and Archbishop Diego Causero, apostolic nuncio in Syria.

Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Antioch was represented by Monsignor Ghattas Hazim, patriarchal vicar.

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