Pope Meets Malaysian Prime Minister

Pope Benedict XVI met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak Monday at the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandalfo.

In the cordial conversations the positive developments in bilateral relations were discussed, and an agreement was reached to establish diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Holy See.

In addition, the political and social situation in the world and on the Asian Continent was reviewed, with particular reference t the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue for the promotion of peace, justice and greater understanding between peoples.

To find out more about the situation of the Catholic Church in the country and the significance of this meeting, Christopher Wells spoke to Jesuit Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of Herald, a Catholic Weekly in Malaysia:

“The significance is the recognition of Christians in Malaysia in a multi-racial nation, there’s always been that question whether we are recognised as a group and recognising the Vatican is a recognition of the Christians and therefore is an important step forward”.

“Once this happens of course the other Christians will benefit, and also I’m sure that when we are given this recognition there will be a necessity for the government to see a moderation. We hope that there will be this inter-faith development taking place”

Malaysia, where Christians make up 9 percent of the population, is one of the few countries without diplomatic ties with the Vatican. While Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in its Constitution. There are about 850,000 Catholics in Malaysia, which has a population of 28 million.

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