Holy See and Malaysia to Establish Diplomatic Relations

Pope Receives Malaysian Prime Minister at Castel Gandolfo

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, JULY 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI received in audience today Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia, during which the two agreed to establish diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the southeastern Asian country.

A communiqué issued by the Vatican press office today confirmed the meeting, which was held at the pontifical summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The note added that the Pontiff and Razak also spoke of «the political and social situation in the world and on the Asian continent was reviewed, with particular reference to the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue for the promotion of peace, justice and greater understanding between peoples.»

Najib Razak then met with the Pontiff’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

The prime minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, also visited Castel Gandolfo with her husband. Other members of the delegation included Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, and Abdul Shukor Husin, president of the National Fatwa Muzakarah Committe.

In statements to the Vatican agency Fides, Jesuit Father Lawrence Andrew, director of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur’s weekly newspaper, the Herald, stressed that «the Malaysian government is one of the most democratic in Southeast Asia.»

«Having a stable apostolic nuncio in Kuala Lumpur could have many positive effects on the Church and the entire Christian community in Malaysia,» added the Jesuit.

«Communications between the Government and the Church will improve,» he added. «Furthermore, it is for us Christians an opportunity to visibly become a big ‘moral bank,’ that is to say a point of reference for morality, for the diffusion and protection of values, to fight corruption, abuse and other evil things that plague our national life.»

In regard to the challenges that the Church is facing in Malaysia, Father Andrew mentioned «the use of the word Allah for non-Muslims; the free circulation of Bibles, the battle for the elimination of the death penalty; respect for freedom and respect for human rights, without any discrimination.»

Malaysia has more than 28 million inhabitants, and 60% are Muslim. Christians constitute just over 9% of the population, and among them are some 850,000 Catholics.

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