Pope Francis calls for better links between Islam and Christianity

'It is not possible to establish true links with God while forgetting other people,' says Francis before meeting with predecessor

Pope Francis has called for greater dialogue between Christianity and Islam as he prepares for a historic meeting with the emeritus pope, Benedict XVI , the first time a pontiff has met his predecessor in modern times.

Speaking to diplomats accredited to the Vatican on Friday, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio advocated more interaction between different faiths as a means of promoting peace.

"It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God," he said. "But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God while ignoring other people. Hence, it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam."

The peculiar circumstances surrounding Francis's fledgling pontificate will be on full view on Saturday when he has a private meeting with Benedict, who has been staying at the pontifical villas in Castel Gandolfo since his resignation came into effect on 28 February.

Francis, 76, will take a brief helicopter ride to the hilltop town south of Rome, where his predecessor has been living in quiet seclusion with a handful of carers and his two personal secretaries.

One of them, the German archbishop Georg Gänswein, is also the prefect of the papal household and has been at Francis's side during many of his public engagements since his election on 13 March. He has also been photographed strolling with Benedict in the manicured gardens of Castel Gandolfo.

The agenda at the greatly anticipated "meeting of the two popes" is unknown. Observers suggest top of the list might be the secret report into the Vatileaks scandal, which led to the jailing of the pope's butler for the theft and the leaking of confidential documents. The report, carried out by three cardinals and known in the Vatican as the Relatio, was the subject of great interest during the period leading up to conclave.

Benedict, who ruled it would only be seen in its entirety by his successor, was said to have been shocked by its compromising contents, much of which is thought to concern alleged corruption, mismanagement and infighting in the Roman Curia, or central Vatican bureaucracy. One Italian newspaper claimed the report revealed a gay sex ring vulnerable to blackmail.

Another subject for discussion is likely to be the scandal-plagued Vatican bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which is under pressure to become more transparent and implement tougher regulations to combat money laundering.

Several reports on Friday claimed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state who heads a commission overseeing the bank, was planning to recommend different structural controls for the IOR in a bid to improve accountability. Bertone, whose spell as secretary of state has been widely criticised, is expected to be replaced under the new pope.


Lizzy Davies in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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