Excerpts from the Pope's discourses in Tunisia

Pope John Paul II visited Tunisia on April 14.1996
The discourses are taken from "Osservatore Romano, April 17 & April 24


Excerpts from the Pope discourses in Tunisia. Pope John Paul II visited Tunisia on April 14.1996 The discourses are taken from "Osservatore Romano, April 17 & April 24

1- Muslim-Christian Relations (from the discourse to more than 200 political, cultural and religious leaders at the Presidential Palace of Cartage) "... On our time an important development in Muslim-Christian dialogue has come to light. The Second Vatican Council was a decisive step for Catholics, encouraging them to open to this dialogue and collaboration with Muslims. In the well-known terms of the Declaration Nostra aetate, the Council urges Christians and Muslims "that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values" (n.3)...May I consider once again with you the conditions necessary if this dialogue is to be fruitful. It is indispensable first of all that it has to be motivated by a true desire to know the other. It is not a question of mere human curiosity. Openness to others is in some way a response to God who allows our differences and who wants us to know one another more deeply. To this, the discovery of our true place in relation to each other is essential. The partners in dialogue will be reassured and at ease to extent that they are firmly rooted in their respective religions. Thus firmly rooted, they will be able to accept their differences and to avoid two contradictory stumbling blocks: syncretism and indifferentism. Each will also be enabled to profit from a critical look at the other's manner of formulating and living his faith. Faith will also be at the basis of this type of dialogue which is collaboration in the service of man and which I have already mentioned; for since we believe in God the Creator, we recognize the dignity of each human person created by him. We have our origins in God and in him our common destiny. Between these two poles we journey through history, where we must walk together in a spirit of mutual aid, in order to reach the transcendent goal God has established.

I would like to repeat to you the appeal I made during my visit to Senegal; "Let us together make a sincere effort to come to a deeper mutual understanding. Let our collaboration for mankind, in the name of God, be a blessing and a befit for people" (To Muslims leaders of Senegal, Dakar 22 February 1992).

2- Christian Heritage in Tunis

Brothers and sisters of Tunisia and North Africa, you are the Church of Christ here. You are witnesses to Good News, after the example of great saints who marked this land in the first centuries of Christianity. Be the faithful heirs of the supreme witness, the martyrs Felicity and Perpetua Return to the teaching of the Fathers and Pastors of former times, such as St. Fulgenius. Follow in footsteps of St. Cyprian of Carthage, one of the great Bishops of the early centuries: remember his love for the Church and his tireless search for unity. St. Augustine, who lived here, was Bishop of Hippo, but at the same time he was a servant of the whole Church, the Body of Christ spread throughout the world. His life consecrated to seeking God, his profound interpretation of Scripture, his keenly perceptive sense of the gift of grace continue to be a source of inspiration for the Christian world. And the cathedral where we have gathered, which you are carefully restoring, calls to mind other saints who were linked with this country, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Olive. (From the Homily during the Mass at the cathedral in Carthage). I am pleased to recall with you the saints who marked the Church's life in your region after St. Speratus and his companions, the first martyrs of Carthage at the end of the second century. (After celebrating Mass at the cathedral). During my visit to Tunisia, I would like to encourage you in your service to the Gospel in this land of North Africa. From the Church in this land sprang Cyprian, Perpetua and Felicity, Augustine, the Popes Victor, Miltiades and Gelasius, and so many other great figures of Christianity in the first centuries. It is also the land where the disciples of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic and St. Vincent de Paul were soon sent. More recently, it was the Church's experience in the Maghreb which gave rise to the missionary insights of Cardinal Lavigerie and the Nazareth spirituality of Bro. Charles de Foucauld. From the beginning, the Church in North Africa has been a source of great spiritual richness for the whole Church. Today you are writing a new page in this Church's history in a very different context from that with which your Fathers in the faith were familiar, a page of dialogue and collaboration between believers of different religions... In your witness, your relationship with believers in Islam has a special place. You often experience the vulnerability of a small flock and sometimes endure trials that lead even to heroism. However, you also experience God's gratuitous gift which, in turn, you desire to live with everyone. What you witness to in faith with thus fortify you for an ever deeper and more spiritual relationship with Muslims, leading you to discover, accept and share God's blessing with them.

Where violence and discord are raging, be messengers of the peace that comes from God and reconciliation, the way that leads to him. No one can kill in the name of God, no one can be willing to kill his brother and sister. Build up fraternal ties that proclaim the coming of God's kingdom, with men and women of good will. Demonstrate your conviction that God is the God of life, that he seeks man's life and not his death. Despite difficulties and misunderstanding, reach out to your brothers and sisters regardless of their origin or religion...Your meeting with Muslims must go further than merely sharing life. It must lead to true collaboration. God "wants us to bear witness to him through our respect for the values and religious traditions of each person, working together for human progress and development at all levels " (Ecclesia in Africa n.6)... The convergence of culture has an important place in your mission. The Church looks respectfully at the cultures of all peoples. By your involvement in the service of education, formation and intellectual exchanges, you desire to show the Church's respect for these cultures which mould the men and women of your country. (Conference in Tunisia to the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa, which includes Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya)

3- Our Lady of Cartage/Tunis ( After celebrating Mass in the cathedral of Tunis and before the Regina Caeli)

From the dawn of Christianity, the Mother of Jesus has been honoured in the land of North Africa. Under her protection, holiness has flourished in the region... The Mother of God is the mother of all men; Christ himself gave her to us from the Cross. We know that believers of Islam honour Mary, the virginal Mother of Jesus, and even at times devoutly invoke her. Let us ask her to help all her children to recognize that they are members of the same human family, to work together in mutual understanding and to promote social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for everyone. (cf. Nostra aetate, n.3)

4- Praying for Peace in the Middle east

I share the deprivation imposed on the Lybian people by an embargo that very seriously affects the people daily life. (Conference to Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa). In this Mediterranean basin all hope that dialogue and cooperation between countries of North Africa and South will not cease to develop, especially as history has linked them in so many different ways down the centuries. The first requirement we have at heart is clearly that peace and renunciation of all violence, within each society and between nations. For her part, the Catholic Church seeks to make a contribution, since peace, which goes hand in hand with justice and fraternal affection, is an essential gift that all people of good will must eagerly serve and foster. (At Tunis International Airport)


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