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Israeli religious leaders visit Pope, pledge commitment to peace, access to shrines

Catholic World News - November 10, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI met on November 10 with the Council of Religious Leaders in Israel, and told them that “dialogue between different religions is becoming ever more important.”

“This is pressing for the religious leaders of the Holy Land who, while living in a place full of memories sacred to our traditions, are tested daily by the difficulties of living together in harmony,” the Pontiff continued. In Israel especially, the Pope remarked, tolerance across religious lines is essential. He reminded his visitors that religious leaders bear “a grave responsibility to educate the members of our respective religious groups.”

The Council of Religious Leaders in Israel, formed 4 years ago, includes top Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders. “Right now, we don’t have great links with the authorities miainly in Israel,” one member, Anglican Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem, admitted. “The Palestinian Authority are very supportive and encouraging.” After meeting with the Pontiff, the Council released a statement thanking Benedict XVI for his encouragement and support. In their statement the group “reiterate our commitment to the sanctity of human life and reject all violence, especially when this is done in the name of religion: a desecration of the sacred.

The Council made a special mention of the religious shrines in the Holy Land: “We inherited the Holy Sites from our forebears, and we are required to preserve their religious sanctity and cultural significance.” The statement insisted that “free access for believers to their respective holy sites must be provided, and the empowered civil authorities must guarantee this.”

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