Milan

Islam centre head thanks Pope Francis for outreach

Shaari says pontiff encouraging dialogue between faiths

Islam centre head thanks Pope Francis for outreach

Milan, July 8 - An Islamic centre in northern Italy thanked Pope Francis Monday for his efforts to reach out to immigrants, including Muslims, who risk their lives at sea to reach Italy. The message, from Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Milan, came as Pope Francis saluted Muslim immigrants during a visit to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, a stepping stone to Europe. The pope chose Lampedusa, closer to Africa than Italy, as his first trip as pontiff to focus attention on the many asylum seekers who die trying to cross the Mediterranean. "To the dear, Muslim immigrants who today, this evening, are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with wishes for abundant spiritual fruit," Pope Francis said. "The Church is close to you in the search for a more dignified life for you and your families," the pope added. Shaari said it was "a good thing" that the pope spoke in Lampedusa to draw attention to the plight of migrants while at the same time encouraging dialogue between faiths. "We thank (Pope Francis) and say that we are part of any dialogue and religious encounter," said Shaari.

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