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World on ‘precipice’, Pope says as he meets Grand Imam in Bahrain

Pope Francis warned the world is on the brink of a “delicate abyss” and ravaged by “winds of war” when he held interfaith talks with one of the top leaders of Sunni Islam in Bahrain on Friday. The 85-year-old Argentine denounced the “opposing blocs” of East and West, a veiled reference to the deadlock over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in a speech to religious leaders in the small Gulf state. “We are still on the brink of a delicate abyss and we don’t want to fall,” he told audiences including the King of Bahrain and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of the prestigious Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. “A few potentates are engaged in a resolute struggle for party interests, reviving outdated rhetoric, redesigning spheres of influence and opposing blocs,” he added. “We seem to be witnessing a dramatic and childish scenario: in the garden of humanity, instead of cultivating our environment, we play with fire, missiles and bombs.” The Pope’s visit, aimed at strengthening relations with Islam, coincides with the ninth-month war in Ukraine and rising tensions in the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Strait. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s foreign minister, who met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in September, told journalists there were “some small signs” of progress in negotiations with Moscow, and warned that peace initiatives may not be “exploited for other purposes”. . Francis, who is on his second visit to the affluent Gulf, later met privately with al-Tayeb, with whom he signed a 2019 Muslim-Christian manifesto for peace in the United Arab Emirates. and internationally, for promoting peace and peaceful coexistence between different religions and civilizations,” said Hala Ramzi Fayez, a Christian and member of the parliament of Bahrain. – Sunni, Shia talk? – Leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics Francis has put interfaith dialogue at the heart of his papacy, visiting other Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt, Turkey and Iraq.Al-Tayeb, who met the pope on previous visits to the Middle East, also called for talks on Friday between the two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia, to resolve sectarian differences.Later the Pope addressed 17 members of the Muslim Council of Elders, an international group of Islamic scholars and dignitaries, at the mosque of the Royal Palace of Sakhir, he told them that dialogue was “the oxygen of peaceful coexistence. “In a world that is increasingly wounded and devastated. When there is fear and apprehension beneath the surface of globalization, the great religious traditions must be the heart that unites the members of the body,” he said. He also lashed out at the arms trade, a “death trade” that he said “turned our common home into one great arsenal.” The pope, who uses a wheelchair and a walking stick due to long-term knee problems, began the first papal visit to Bahrain on Thursday with the death penalty, urging respect for human rights and better conditions for workers. Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s finance and national economy minister, emphasized that the country has “led the region” with its criminal justice reforms. “We have some of the most robust and comprehensive human rights and criminal justice protections in the region,” the minister told AFP on Friday. “There are very established channels through which these critics can go, established institutions of accountability,” he said, adding that Bahrain was not mentioned in the pope’s comments on the death penalty. “It is important to note that that reference … was a general reference to countries around the world,” the minister said. Bahrain has executed six people since 2017, when it was executed for the first time in seven years. Some of the convicts were convicted after a 2011 uprising that was crushed with military support from neighboring Saudi Arabia. cmk-lar/par/ho/th/dwo

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