June 20, 06
Blair and Pope Discuss Dialogue With Islam
Among Issues Raised at Private Audience
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The role of religion, dialogue with Islam and aid to Africa were among the issues addressed during Benedict XVI's audience with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The "cordial" meeting, as it was later described by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls, was held Saturday morning in the Pope's private library and lasted about 35 minutes.
According to a note issued by Navarro Valls, the principal subject of the meeting was "the role of religion in politics and society."
In particular, "attention was given to the contribution that the shared values of religion can make to dialogue, especially with moderate Islam, and above all in the areas of solidarity and peace," according to the Vatican statement.
The Vatican note added that during the audience, "The discussion also considered Africa, highlighting the need for the international community to use all the means to favor and support peaceful coexistence and development in that continent."
"Finally, the decisive progress in the peace process in Northern Ireland was recognized," concluded Navarro Valls.
This was the first meeting between Blair, an Anglican, and Benedict XVI since his election to the papacy. The prime minister arrived in the Vatican accompanied by his wife Cherie and their children.
Cherie Blair, a Catholic, had been received in a private audience by the Pope on April 28. She was at the Vatican taking part in the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
A communiqué from Downing Street specified that during the meeting the Holy Father and Tony Blair "discussed the challenges of globalization, dialogue between different faiths, and the importance of moderate voices from different religions coming together to confront extremism and terrorism."
The prime minister's office also said that the situation of China was touched upon.