"Forholdet til islam er forbedret"

Statements by Vatican Secretary for Relations with States

VATICAN CITY, FEB 25 (ZENIT).- Yesterday Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, was interviewed by the Egyptian newspaper "Al-Ahram" ("The Pyramids"), during which he stated that John Paul II's visit to the land of the Pharaohs, in addition to its spiritual significance, offers "an occasion to review the role of the Church and of the Catholic community." The Archbishop regarded the Holy Father's meeting with President Mubarak as decisive.

In regard to the Pope's meeting with the highest Sunni Muslim authority, Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque and University, the French Archbishop believes that it has reflected a "sincere and constructive interest in the dialogue between Islam and Christianity." It was an important moment to "clarify to everyone that faith in God is not a factor for division but rather an important instrument for the edification of a continual relationship of fraternity."

The Pope also met Coptic-Orthodox Patriarch Shenouda III. Archbishop Tauran is certain that good fruits will come from this meeting for the ecumenical dialogue, as it allows for "additional concrete steps in the road to unity" of Christians.

The Question of Israel At the meeting, the thorny question of Jerusalem was addressed. Israel believes that the Holy City must be the one, undivided capital of its State, while Palestinians claim this zone, which has been recognized as theirs by U.N. international resolutions. Archbishop Tauran emphasized that Jerusalem must be "a world symbol of fraternity and peace." The Vatican "is very interested in the religious and cultural dimension of the Holy City, as it has special value for the faithful of the three religions and is the patrimony of the whole of humanity." Given that its political and religious dimensions "go beyond the legitimate national interests of the two peoples," the Vatican requests that it be given special international status, hoping, in addition, that "the most sacred places of the city can be safeguarded, in order to impede one part or religion from claiming it solely for itself."

Relations with Arab World The Vatican has just become an Observer of the Arab League (by exchanging ambassadors), and has come to a basic agreement to regulate relations of the Church with the future State of Palestine. Questioned by a reporter about the Vatican's great interest in developing relations with the Arab States, in spite of the reduced number of Catholics in these countries, Archbishop Tauran replied: "the Vatican had diplomatic relations with some Arab States, following a long-established tradition, especially with those States that were characterized by a long-standing Christian presence." The Vatican "wants to establish diplomatic relations with all the countries to guarantee the rights of Christian communities living in them."

The Archbishop attributed much of the progress made in relations with the Arab States to John Paul II himself. Thanks to him, Islam can regard Catholics as a "moral force" and not as a "hostile part," with whom "it is possible to establish a dialogue and develop common values to build a better world."

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome

av Webmaster publisert 05.03.2000, sist endret 05.03.2000 - 12:25