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Pope Meets Pakistani President

Pope John Paul II met yesterday with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, encouraging him to press ahead with a "spirit of dialogue and tolerance" in his turbulent region.

Musharraf is in Italy this week for a state visit, discussing relations between Muslim countries and the West, and Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism.

"In these times of turmoil and violence, I encourage you and your fellow citizens to continue to foster a spirit of dialogue and tolerance in your region," John Paul told Musharraf.

"It is only by acknowledging the need for mutual understanding among peoples, through a frank and open exchange of ideas, that the world can obtain justice and peace," the pope said, invoking "the abundant blessings of the Almighty God" on the Pakistani people.

In addition to terrorism spilling over from neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan has regional disputes with rival India. The nuclear-armed countries have fought two wars over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947.

After the papal audience, Musharraf met with Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, where such issues as terrorism and the state of the Roman Catholic Church in Pakistan were expected to be on the agenda. Security was recently stepped up in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, scene of several attacks against Westerners and Christians in recent years.

The talks between the Pope and Musharraf lasted 20 minutes, including a 10-minute private session. The Holy Father appeared alert as he welcomed the Pakistani leader to the Vatican and afterward during a public exchange of gifts. Musharraf gave the Pope a green carpet and received medals of John Paul's pontificate.

Pope Meets Pakistani President (The Guardian/Associated Press 30/9/04)

Pope asks Pakistani president to promote dialogue and religious tolerance (Catholic News Agency 30/9/04)
Pope Suggests Rediscovery of Beauty to Rediscover God (Zenit 29/9/04)
Pope Elated by Liberation of 2 Italian Women in Iraq
Pope to Musharraf: "Foster dialogue and tolerance" ( 30/9/04)
Pope to Pakistani leader: "Foster spirit of dialogue and tolerance" (Catholic World News 30/9/04)

31 Oct 2004