.- L'Osservatore Romano reported several hopeful encounters the Holy Father had after Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square. Hopes for improved inter-religious relations were brought to the Pope by a Muslim-Catholic joint delegation from Canada and a Catholic archbishop located in Moscow.
Leaders of the Sunni, Sciite and Druze communities of Lebanese descent now residing in Canada told the Pope that "Co-existence between Christians and Muslims is possible" and is the key to peace in the Middle East.
"Our faiths are different but don't oppose each other and our experience in Canadian society tells us that it is fundamental to get to know each other and learn to coexist," they said.
The Maronite Bishop of Montreal, Joseph Khoury, who was also there on Wednesday with the Canadian Muslim group, highlighted the historic quality of the inter-religious initiative.
Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Mother of God in Moscow told Pope Benedict that forward progress is being made in Russian Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. Pointing to the recent "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican" as an example, he noted, "with the Orthodox there is a new friendliness, and also at the Moscovite level we are noticing progress that is registered at maximum levels."
He also told L'Osservatore that the possibility of creating a "common family pastoral ministry" exists, and that "cardinal points" for ministry, decided on by both Churches, would be the focus. The Italian-born archbishop came with 25 priests from the archdiocese and reported 80 newly-confirmed Catholics in the area last weekend.
Others to meet with the Pope after the audience included an Iraqi delegation, composed of representatives from the nation's tribes, the nation's cultural affairs and the Church. Among the 25,000-plus people who came to the audience were: 6,000 Italians who attended in remembrance the Pope's pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo a year ago next month; 1,100 in thanksgiving for Saturday's beatification of Teresa Manganiello and nearly 300 registered school and pilgrim groups from the United States.