VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2005 ( Dialogue between cultures is indispensable for peace, said Benedict XVI when receiving the new ambassador of Macedonia.

This is the important lesson left by the conflict that bloodied the Balkans in the 1990s, the Pope said in his English-language address today to Bartolomej Kajtazi.

In his address, the Holy Father thanked the country for having "reaffirmed its commitment to forge a path of peace and reconciliation."

"By doing so it can become an example to others in the Balkan region," he said. "Tragically, cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and even the cause of senseless conflicts and wars."

Benedict XVI said that, on the contrary, "dialogue between cultures is an indispensable building stone of the universal civilization of love for which every man and woman longs."

"I encourage you and your citizens therefore to affirm the fundamental values common to all cultures; common because they find their source in the very nature of the human person," he stated.

"In this way the quest for peace is consolidated allowing you to dedicate every human and spiritual resource to the material and moral progress of your people, in a spirit of fruitful cooperation with neighboring countries," encouraged the Holy Father.

Slavic evangelizers

Benedict XVI mentioned the example of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples. Every year, on the occasion of their feast, a delegation from Macedonia visits Rome.

"Just as Cyril and Methodius recognized the acute need to transpose correctly biblical notions and Greek theological concepts into a very different context of thought and historical experience, so today the primary task facing Christians in Europe is that of casting the ennobling light of Revelation on all that is good, true and beautiful," he added.

"In this way all peoples and nations are drawn towards that peace and freedom which God the Creator intends for everyone," asserted the Pontiff.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has 2 million inhabitants, 79% of whom are Orthodox and 29% Muslim. The nation has 15,000 Catholics.

The republic obtained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, when Slobodan Milosevic was president of Serbia.