12/18/2008, 00.00
VATICAN – BAHRAIN
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Christians and Muslims ought to work together to defend life and the family, says Pope

In receiving the first Bahraini ambassador, Benedict XVI mentioned that the kingdom was the first country in the Gulf to authorise the building of a church. But respect for religious freedom also “means that people can change religious, if their conscience so dictates.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Whilst acknowledging the “differences” that separate Christians from Muslims as well as their “different approaches” to a number of issues, it “is important” that in today’s world, they “work together to defend and promote the essential values of life and the family, which allow man to live in faithfulness to the one God and society to assert itself in peace and solidarity.”

Benedict XVI reaffirmed today the value of Christian-Muslim co-operation in his address to the first ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Vatican, Naser Muhamed Youssef Al Belooshi, who presented his Letters of Credit.

Speaking on the issue of inter-faith relations the Pope mentioned King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s visit to Castel Gandolfo in July and the fact that it was in Bahrain that the first Catholic church (pictured) was built in a Gulf country in 1939.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain has an old tradition of tolerance and openness,” the Holy father said. “It has welcomed many foreign workers who are taking part in the building of the country, and many of them are Catholic,” he added.

As grateful as he is for the church already in place, the Pontiff also said that “everyone is aware today that because of the rising number of Catholics, it would be desirable for them to have more places of worships.”

“Freedom of religion, which is among the rights guaranteed in your country’s constitution, is of primordial importance because it affects what is deepest and most sacred to man: his relationship to God,” the Pope noted. Indeed, “religious freedom, which allows each one of us to live our faith alone or with others, in private or in public, means that people can change religious, if his conscience so dictates.”

Lastly Benedict XVI said that “the changes the kingdom has experienced in the last few years are indicative of an ongoing concern for progress towards a society that is open to the world and to more fraternal relations with other nations, whilst at the same time as it remains faithful to its own rightful traditional values.”

Benedict XVI addressed this matter in his appech to the ambassadors of Malawi, Sweden, Sierra Leon, Iceland, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Belize, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Bahrain and Fiji whom he had already met individually for the presentation of their Letters of Credence.

“At times diversity causes fear, which is why [. . .] human beings prefer the monotony of uniformity. Some political-economic systems, ostensibly with pagan or religious origins, have afflicted humanity for too long, attempting to homogenise it through demagogy and violence. These systems have reduced and continue to enslave human beings to serve single ideologies or inhuman and pseudo-scientific economic systems,” he said.

“We all know that no single political model exists, that no absolute ideal can be put into place. Political philosophy evolves over time and is expressed differently as human intelligence changes for the better and lessons are learnt from political and economic experiences. Each nation has its own ethos as well as its own ‘demons’. Each creates itself, sometimes through its own painful experiences, but always with the eye on its own prize. It is my hope that each nation can develop its own character, enhancing it for the good of all, and that each might rid itself of its own ‘demons’, keeping them better under control until they are turned into positive and creative values like harmony, prosperity and peace so as to defend the greatness of human dignity.”

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