Pope tells North African bishops to maintain dialogue with Islam
Pope John Paul II has encouraged Catholics living in countries with Islamic majorities to promote dialogue with their Muslim brothers and to be signs of God's love through aid to the needy.
Meeting at the weekend with the bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa, the Holy Father said interreligious dialogue must be continued "with patience and determination to overcome mutual mistrust and learn to serve together the common good of humanity".
The bishops of the Maghreb were concluding their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.
Addressing the bishops of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the Pope noted commended "the quality of relations" between Christians and the Muslim populations of these countries, but he stressed that good relations must be maintained.
"Continue to encourage these meetings as a priority day after day," John Paul II urged. "They contribute to the evolution of mentalities on both sides and help to overcome preconceived images that the media still present all too frequently."
The Pope referred to the "tragic events suffered by the Christian community and shared by the Muslim people" of North Africa.
In the 1990s, the Catholic community of Algeria suffered a number of killings, including those of seven Trappists at the monastery of Our Lady of the Atlas in Thibirine (May 1996) and of Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran (August 1996).
Dioceses of Africa (catholic-hierarchy.org)
Excerpts from the Pope discourses in Tunisia
25 Feb 2003