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Pope holds talks with Muslim ambassadors

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS): Meeting with Islamic ambassadors and representatives, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his deep respect for Muslims, pledged to continue dialogue, and said Islamic and Christian leaders should co-operate to curb violence.

“Faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence,” the Pope said.

“As for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction,” he said.

The unprecedented encounter at the Pope’s summer residence on September 25 was designed to soothe Muslim resentment over a recent papal speech that cited a historical criticism of Islam and the concept of holy war.

The Pope later distanced himself from the quoted material and said he was sorry Muslims had been offended.

In attendance were ambassadors from 22 predominantly Muslim countries and 19 other Islamic representatives based in Italy.

Before the meeting, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said the encounter was a sign that dialogue was returning to normal after a moment of misunderstanding.

Catholic Church Insurance

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