In what constitutes the first interview for a documentary on the Vatican produced by the Al Jazeera network in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, encouraged the fostering of religious freedom and respect for human rights in Arab countries, especially in the Middle East.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Bertone explained that dialogue between Catholics and Muslims is an "important factor for peace and respect.” He also encouraged "a peaceful coexistence of all with all," explaining that the Church "defends the rights of all: the right to live, the right to education, the right of association, the rights of all minorities."
In that sense, he said, "it is necessary to ensure freedom to worship for everyone, dialoguing and working together to help those who are most in need." "The Church,” he added, "promotes the welfare of peoples regardless of their religion." Given that fact, he urged the defense of minorities, especially Christians "who are in Muslim countries,” a task that "we must pursue together."
Cardinal Bertone went on to discuss his telephone conversation with the Patriarch of Baghdad, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly, after the terrible attacks that hit the offices of the Chaldean Patriarchate, among other areas.
Addressing the people of the Middle East, the Cardinal urged "Arab Christians to stay, because they play a positive role, although some may make mistakes." This is an issue that is often raised when policy makers from the region visit the Vatican, he said.
The Al Jazeera Documentary
The new documentary, which is intended to show the reality of the Vatican to the Muslim world and will be broadcast by Al Jazeera in six months, also includes interviews with several cardinals. Among those prelates are: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Vita.
According Kenawi Mohamed, Cardinal Bertone's interviewer, "the decision to make the documentary stems from the desire to make known the universal reality of the Catholic Church and the Vatican to the Arab and Muslim world, in particular the Vatican, an independent entity guided by the pope, who is both a spiritual leader and head of state."
Kenawi said the documentary, which has been well received by members of the Roman Curia, "can serve to help the Arab world better understand the figure of the pope and the role of the Holy See in the current international scenario.”