ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Pontiff Sees Vatican-Syria Relations Progressing
Pledges Support to New Ambassador
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI said that he is confident
about consolidating good relations with Syria, when receiving the letters
of credence of the country's new ambassador to the Holy See.
In his address to Makram Obeid on Thursday, the Holy Father did not hesitate
to point out to Syria the possibility it has to offer the world "an example
of peaceful coexistence and tolerance between the followers of different
"As you have indicated, from ancient times Syria has witnessed a great flowering
of civilizations and religions," the Pope said to Obeid.
In fact, added the Pontiff, Damascus, the capital, "is dear to Christians
as the site of St. Paul's baptism, following his dramatic experience of conversion
during his journey there"; and "many great saints have led lives of exemplary
holiness on Syrian soil."
Benedict XVI continued: "For centuries now, there have been harmonious relations
between the Christian and Muslim communities in your country.
"I can assure you of the support of the Holy See for the efforts your government
has made both at home and abroad to promote dialogue between religions and
Because "all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and
must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not
for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect," the
Pope said, alluding to his recent address to the diplomatic corps in Ankara,
"The Catholic community in Syria, as you know, is eager to play its part
in national life, in cooperation with fellow Christians from the various
Eastern Churches represented there," the Pontiff said.
The Holy Father said Syria "is certainly fertile ground for progress in ecumenical
relations between the followers of Christ, and I would like to pledge the
continued support of the Catholic Church for this important work," recalling
that during his recent journey to Turkey he was able to express publicly
"the commitment of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches to work in every way
toward the goal of full visible communion."
Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for "the recent legislation implemented
by the Syrian government to recognize the juridical status of the Catholic
Churches" in the country.
"This step bodes well for a future of growing reciprocal understanding between
the members of different Churches and different religions in Syria," the
The Holy Father added: "Moreover, it sets the scene for increasing cooperation
between the Church and the government, which should facilitate the discovery
of a solution to differences, such as the question of Church property taken
over by the state.
"It is a sign of real maturity in relations when such matters can be discussed
with openness, honesty and mutual respect."
Benedict XVI invoked God's blessing upon Syria and said to the ambassador
that he is "confident that the noble task which you begin today will consolidate
these good relations between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Holy See."
Of Syria's 19 million inhabitants, 74% are Sunni Muslims, and 10% are Christians.