Vatican City (Fides Service) – From 7-9 July the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, led by its president Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, held a meeting for its members, consultors and guests in Syria at the Saint Thomas Monastery of the Catholic Greek Melchite Patriarchate at Saydnaya. The participants came from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the Holy Land, Turkey, North Africa, France and Canada.
On the first day after the opening address and greetings, Father Elias Zahlawi from Damascus, Syria gave a conference on Interreligious Dialogue and Social Development. The second conference on Interreligious Dialogue and Human Rights was given by Father Kjean-Marc Aveline from Marseilles France. The third conference was by Mgr Rafiq Khoury from Jerusalem, on Interreligious Dialogue and the Search for Common Values. This was followed by discussion. On the following days the participants listened to reports on the situation of Christian/Muslim relations in the different countries. In a statement issued after the Meeting the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said that the participants showed great appreciation for the position taken by Pope John Paul II, Catholic leaders and those of other Churches, particularly in the Middle East, in favour of world peace and of condemnation of the war on Iraq and a call for just and global peace for the Middle East, above all in Palestine.
The participants stressed the importance of the activity of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and its role in the promotion of brotherly relations with Muslims all over the world, something which has become increasingly relevant and necessary since the events of 11 September 2001, the war in Iraq and the ever more critical situation in the Holy Land. One of the aims of the Pontifical Council is to promote these relations flanking the local Catholic Churches in Syria and the Middle East. The participants recalled Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Syria in 2001 which they said had been seen by all sides as very positive. During their visit to Syria the leaders and members of the Pontifical Council met the local Christian and Muslim leaders and everywhere they were shown warm hospitality. SL (Fides Service 15/7/2003 EM lines 27 Words: 390)