Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with Ali Achour, Morocco’s new ambassador to the Holy See, with whom he stressed the dignity of immigrants and importance of respect and consideration for the religious beliefs and practices of different peoples.
Clearly referencing the recent violence over certain Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed-- an act utterly deplorable to Muslims--the Pope said that intolerance and violence are always incompatible with sacred traditions of religion.
After thanking Mr. Achour for the greetings of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the Holy Father expressed his esteem "for the tradition of welcome and understanding which has, for many centuries, characterized relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Catholic Church."
Recalling Morocco’s recent 50th anniversary celebration of its independence, the Pope praising the country’s expressed intent to move towards "a modern, democratic and prosperous future."
This achievement, he said, "must enable Moroccans to live in security and dignity, so that they can actively participate in the social and political life of the country."
Moving on, Benedict discussed what he called the "ever-closer collaboration between countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, ... which is called more than ever before to be a place of encounter and dialogue between peoples and cultures."
Likewise, he focused on a number of the serious problems faced by these countries, such as "the phenomenon of migration," which, he said, "constitutes an important factor in relations between States."
"In ever greater numbers,” the Pope said, “emigrants from less favored regions call at the gates of Europe in search of better living conditions."
“Therefore,” he pointed out, “it is necessary "that institutions in the countries of destination and transit, do not consider these people as a mere commodity or labor force, and that they respect their fundamental rights and their dignity."
"The precarious situation of so many foreigners must favor solidarity between the countries involved, so as to contribute to the development of the emigrants' places of origin,” the Pope added.
“In fact,” he said, “these problems cannot be solved only by national policies. Only ever-greater collaboration between all the nations concerned will favor the search for solutions to these painful problems."
Referring to Morocco's contribution to "the consolidation of dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions," the Pope said that "in the current international context, the Catholic Church is convinced that, in order to support peace and understanding among peoples, ... there is an urgent need for religions and their symbols to be respected, and for believers not to be exposed to provocations that wound ... their religious feelings."
"Nonetheless," he said, "intolerance and violence can never be justified as a response to offence, because they are incompatible with the sacred principles of religion.”
Benedict said that “For this reason, we can only lament the actions of those who deliberately profit from the offence caused to religious sentiments in order to foment violence, because their aims are foreign to religion."
The Pope concluded his address, by telling the diplomat that for believers and people of good will alike, the only road that leads to peace and fraternity is that of "respect for the religious practices and convictions of others."
This is the case, he said, because "in all societies, everyone may be assured of the opportunity to practice the religion they have freely chosen."