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Catholics hopeful for continued freedom in Libya

Catholic World News - August 26, 2011

Catholic leaders in Libya are hopeful that the Church will be able to continue functioning freely in the African country in the wake of the apparent fall of the Qaddafi regime.

Catholics were allowed to worship freely under Qaddafi, and some expressed concern that Islamic militants in a new regime would restrict their religious freedom. But observers note that priests and nuns have been able to move freely in sections of the country already controlled by rebel troops.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the apostolic administrator of Tripoli, reports that he plans to return to Libya as soon as possible. Bishop Martinelli, who is now in Italy, noted that many Libyans are now returning to their homes after having fled to escape the fighting. He expressed optimism about the country’s future, telling the Fides news service: “There are elites able to take control of the situation and plan for the future of the country, preserving its unity.”

Three Franciscan friars living in Tripoli have been confined to their monastery because of fighting in the streets of the capital city, but have reported that they are safe. Three other Franciscans, who were traveling to Tripoli to join them, have been delayed because of the breakdown in transportation during the civil war. Libya has only a tiny Catholic presence, served by 25 priests. About 60 Catholic nuns serve in hospitals. The country is overwhelmingly Muslim.

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