Pope, Visiting Senegal, Offers Friendship to Muslim Leaders

From Associated Press

Pope John Paul II offered friendship to Muslim leaders Thursday on the second day of a pilgrimage aimed at strengthening Roman Catholic relations with the Islamic world.

He promised his church's help in improving relations between Muslims in this West African country and the small Catholic minority.

This region near Senegal's southern border with Guinea-Bissau has been torn by separatist violence fed partly by religious differences. But security appeared light except for camouflaged paratroopers patrolling the airport.

The Pope, who is visiting Senegal, Gambia and Guinea--three predominantly Muslim nations in West Africa--during a weeklong tour, has often expressed alarm at the rise of religious fundamentalism in the world and its potential for violence.

Ancient conflicts between Islam and Christianity in Africa have led to armed conflict in several nations.

The Pope arrived after meeting in Dakar with President Abdou Diouf, a Muslim who is married to a Catholic.

Thousands of Senegalese stood six deep along sunbaked dirt roads to greet John Paul as he drove into town past thatched huts and shacks with corrugated roofs.

He met with Muslim leaders at a Catholic cathedral shaded by coconut palms.

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