His Excellency Archbishop Petar Rajic, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See (Vatican) to the State of Kuwait, recently held a reception to mark the 2nd anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis.
In his speech to dignitaries and guests on the occasion, Archbishop Rajic said: The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has in these first two years, drawn the attention of not only Catholics, but many other Christians and non-Christians alike, by his words and most of all his gestures, towards the need for charitable deeds, to the poor, the forgotten, as well as the discriminated and marginalized people of society. He has thereby reiterated the fundamental teaching of Christianity which is love of God that is shown in our love towards our fellow man.
Speaking about the cordial relations between the Vatican and Kuwait, the envoy said: Christians have been present in Kuwait for a long time and the Holy See - Vatican, established official diplomatic relations with the State of Kuwait 47 years ago. Kuwait was the first country in the Arabian Peninsula to establish diplomatic ties with the Holy See - Vatican, and other countries followed later: Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. We also look forward to establishing diplomatic relations with Oman and Saudi Arabia in the near future.
“As Christians, we are pleased to be living in Kuwait alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters. Christians are thereby contributing to the overall well-being of Kuwaiti society and that of the other countries in the region. We hope and pray that our coexistence in mutual respect and good relations will continue to develop in the future, thereby contributing to peace and good will amongst all peoples and nations,” added Archbishop Rajic.
Pope Francis has in his short time as head of the Catholic Church captivated the attention and respect of not just Christian faithful but of ordinary people around the world. In a time of widespread turmoil, violence and vehement intolerance among people in some quarters, the pontiff’s humility, compassion and respect for human dignity has endeared him to people of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis was elected by a papal conclave on 13 March, 2013, following the resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. With his election, the new pope, who chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, became the first pope from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope in 1,272 years.
The pope, who encourages Catholics to see him as primus inter pares or ‘first among equals’, has with his simple lifestyle and by forsaking many of the accoutrements associated with the papacy, attracted the attention of ordinary people.
Through his homilies, messages, letters and, more importantly, through his actions, Pope Francis has called on Christians everywhere to help the poor and needy and to persevere in their faith despite overwhelming challenges they might face. He also reiterated his commitment to dialogue as the only way to build bridges between believers of different faiths and for global peace.
In a letter addressed to Christians in the Middle-East during Christmas 2014, the pontiff wrote: Every day I follow the new reports of the enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East. I think in particular of the children, the young mothers, the elderly, the homeless and all refugees, the starving and those facing the prospect of a hard winter without an adequate shelter… I want to express to all of you my personal closeness and solidarity, as well as that of the whole Church, and to offer you a word of consolation and hope.
He added: Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough. Even more than the many contributions which the Church makes in the areas of education, healthcare and social services, which are esteemed by all, the greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence. Thank you for your perseverance!
Writing on the need for inter-faith dialogue the pontiff added: The more difficult the situation, the more interreligious dialogue becomes necessary. There is no other way. Dialogue, grounded in an attitude of openness, in truth and love, is also the best antidote to the temptation to religious fundamentalism, which is a threat for followers of every religion. At the same time, dialogue is a service to justice and a necessary condition for the peace which all so ardently desire.
The tragic situation faced by our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, as well as by members of other religious and ethnic communities, demands that all religious leaders clearly speak out to condemn these crimes unanimously and unambiguously, and to denounce the practice of invoking religion in order to justify them.
Concluding his letter by conveying his blessings and encouraging Christians to continue to pray for peace in the Middle East, the pontiff expressed his hopes for everyone in the Middle-East: May those forced to leave their lands, be able to return and to live in dignity and security. May humanitarian aid increase and always have as its central concern the good of each individual and each country, respecting their identity and without any other agendas. May the entire Church and the international community become ever more conscious of the importance of your presence in the region.
Underlining the importance of dialogue in promoting inter religious understanding, the pope during his visit to Sri Lanka in January 2015, addressed an inter-faith meeting of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. At the meeting he noted that interreligious and ecumenical relations take on a particular significance and urgency in Sri Lanka. “For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence.
What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division… It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.
He hoped that the growing spirit of cooperation between leaders of various religious communities would find expression in a commitment to put reconciliation among all Sri Lankans at the heart of every effort to renew society and its institutions.
“For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.
Similarly, encapsulating his deep and abiding compassion for the poor, the pope in his address to a gathering of young people at the Santo Tomás University, Manila during his visit to Philippines said: No matter how much or how little we have individually, each one of us is called to personally reach out and serve our brothers and sisters in need. There is always someone near us who is in need, materially, emotionally, spiritually. The greatest gift we can give to them is our friendship, our concern, our tenderness, our love for Jesus.
Calling on the youth to give their time, their talents and their resources to the many people who struggle and who live on the margins, the pope said, “You can make a difference that is so desperately needed and one for which you will be richly rewarded.” Recalling the words of Pope John Paul II, made 20 years ago at the same venue, the pontiff said, the world needs “a new kind of young person” one committed to the highest ideals and eager to build the civilization of love.
The pope exhorted his young audience to, “Be those young persons! Never lose your idealism! Be joyful witnesses to God’s love and the beautiful plan he has for us, for this country and for the world in which we live. “