Pope will meet Saudi monarch for the first time next week

By staff writers
November 1, 2007

Christian-Muslim relations and the rights of the minority Christian community are among the likely discussion points when Pope Benedict XVI meets with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah next week - after his controversial UK state visit.

The meeting will be the first one between a Saudi monarch and the pontiff. lt take place on Tuesday 6 November 2007, said the Vatican in a short announcement.

King Abdullah, whose country stands accused of widespread human rights abuses documented in a new Amnesty International report, will be in Italy next week to meet government officials, including PM Romano Prodi.

The Vatican has no formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and relations have been strained, especially in relation to the absence of rights for the small Christian minority there.

Christians, mostly guest workers, are not allowed to practice their faith in public, or to transmit it to others.

King Abdullah is custodian of the mosques in the key Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, sites of pilgrimages by millions of Muslims every year.

The Pope is keen to rebuild Christian-Muslim relations following the controversy sparked by comments in his Ravensborg university address in Germany in 2006.

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