Hindus and Jews disappointed over Pope not meeting non-Catholic leaders during Malta visit

February 17th, 2010 - 3:23 pm ICT by Sampurn Wire  

February 17, 2010 (Sampurn Wire): Program of Pope Benedict’s “Apostolic Journey to Malta” on April 17-18 has been published on The Holy See website and there is no mention of any interfaith dialogue with non-Catholic religious leaders.

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a statement in Nevada today, said that it appeared that Catholic church in Malta was not serious to share minority viewpoint and discuss issues of religious equality with minority religions/denominations, which was very sad. They had earlier urged Malta Archbishop to organize the meeting of leaders of various religions and denominations with His Holiness Pope Benedict during this visit.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, and Rabbi Freirich, argued that as a dominating majority in Malta, Catholics and Pope had a moral responsibility to take care of minority brothers/sisters from different faith/denomination backgrounds. Besides Catholic majority, Malta has minority communities of Protestants, Orthodox, other Christian denominations, Muslims, Hindus, Baha’is, Jews, Wiccans/Neo-Pagans, people with “no religion”, etc.

Pope’s published program of this “Apostolic Journey to Malta on the occasion of the 1950th Anniversary of St. Paul’s Shipwreck on the Island” (on his way to stand trial in Rome, which is said to have brought Christianity to the island), which will be live broadcasted from Vatican CTV, includes: welcoming ceremony at Luqa airport, visiting President in Valletta Palace, visiting Saint Paul’s Cave in Rabat, Holy Mass at Floriana Granaries, Regina Caeli, luncheon with Malta Bishops and Papal Entourage at the Rabat Apostolic Nunciature, meeting young people at Great Port of Valletta, address in Valletta, farewell ceremony at Luqa airport. It includes his five addresses and one homily. According to Archdiocese of Malta website, Pope will pass by 40 parishes during this visit.

Rajan Zed and Jonathan Freirich urged Malta to treat all religions and denominations equally in front of the law. Malta Criminal Code reportedly makes one liable to imprisonment up to six months for publicly vilifying “Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion”, while committing such act against “any cult tolerated by law” makes one liable to imprisonment only up to three months.

Zed and Freirich further said that under the subject of “religion”, Malta should come up with a “comparative religion” class teaching basics of all major world religions, including the viewpoint of non-believers, in its public primary and secondary schools. According to Constitution of Malta (Chapter I, Article 2, Item 3) “Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.”

It will be third visit of a Pope to the island, who has reportedly been invited by President George Abela and Archbishop Monsignor Paul Cremona. Two silver coins will commemorate Pope’s visit to Malta besides release of a DVD and an official book.

Maltese islands were first settled reportedly in 5,200 BCE. Few European countries have such concentrated architecture, history, and beaches in so small an area as Malta.

-Sampurn Wire

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