Pope calls on Catholics, Muslims to improve society

.- Catholics and Muslims can work together for the common good, Pope Benedict said on the second day of his state visit to Germany.

“As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society,” said the Pope at a Sept. 23 gathering of Catholic and Muslim leaders in Berlin.

“I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.”

Germany has a Muslim population of four million – 5 percent of its population – with Berlin being the home of the largest Islamic community and the country’s oldest mosque.

The Pope said that since the beginning of large-scale Muslim immigration to Germany in the 1970s, “a climate of respect and trust has grown up between the Catholic Church and the Muslim communities.”

This friendship, though, has to go further than mere “peaceful co-existence” towards a recognition of “the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good.”

The Pope noted that “many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life,” and said that this witness “to the public dimension of religious adherence” is very important in “a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices.”

Today’s meeting between Pope Benedict and 15 representatives of the Muslim community took place at the residence of the papal nuncio in Berlin.

On his previous trip to Germany, in 2006, Pope Benedict offended some elements within the Muslim community after they construed to a speech he delivered at Regensburg as linking Islam to violence. Since then, the Pope has been eager to build a more substantial dialogue and understanding between Catholics and Muslims.

He concluded his meeting today by looking forward to his meeting with other world religions – including Muslims leaders – in the Italian town of Assisi next month.

“Through this gathering, we wish to express, with simplicity, that we believers have a special contribution to make towards building a better world, while acknowledging that if our actions are to be effective, we need to grow in dialogue and mutual esteem.”


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