VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Friday, March 22, called for the Catholic Church to "intensify" dialogue with Islam and with non-believers in an address to ambassadors in which he also condemned "spiritual poverty" in the West.
“It is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam,” the new pontiff said in an address to foreign ambassadors at the Vatican. “It is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail but rather the desire to build true links of friendship,” he said. The Argentine pope said he wanted to “build bridges connecting all people” and said this was particularly significant for him personally because of his own Italian immigrant roots. “This dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me,” he said. Pope Francis referred to it as a “dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent”. The pope also returned to a favoured theme of his predecessor Benedict XVI, who battled against rising secularism in Europe in his pontificate. “It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called rich countries particularly seriously,” the 76-year-old said, adding that this “endangers the coexistence of peoples”.