September 8-10, 2000
volume 11, no. 164-166

NEWS for the weekend of September 8-10, 2000

VATICAN, Sept. 7 (

    As he received a new ambassador from Egypt on September 7, Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the peace process in the Middle East has fallen upon difficult times.

    As he accepted the diplomatic credentials of Farouk Hussein Raafat, the Holy Father praised Egypt for its "central" role in "the search for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East." He said that the search must continue, and urged new efforts to address "the many problems that have not yet been resolved, which have a profound impact on that unstable region."

    "The Church is deeply interested" in the peace process, the Pontiff continued, although the role if the Church is different from that of civil governments. The role of religions, he explained, is "to educate consciences to the principles and truths that are the foundation of the welfare of individuals and of societies."

    Switching his focus, the Pope then spoke of the joy he had felt when he visited Egypt in February. During the Jubilee year, he said, it has been "a great grace for me to visit the sites that have a vital importance in the religious history of the world." He cited Mount Sinai as one such important site.

    Pope John Paul also alluded to his visit with Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the leading Muslim authority in Egypt. That visit had helped to reinforce the "common desire for a new period of religious dialogue" between Christians and Muslims, he said. The Pontiff added that in an era marked by violence, it is particularly appalling that believers of different faiths are often pitted against each other in "bitter conflicts." Religious leaders, he said, have a "solemn duty to ensure that religious sentiments are never used as an excuse for hatred and war, particularly when religious identity coincides with cultural and ethnic identity."

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