Pope Benedict Urges Muslims to Respect Christians

Pope Benedict XVI urged Islamic countries to ensure religious rights for Christian migrants Monday while also saying Christians should continue welcoming Muslim immigrants with open arms.

Benedict stressed the need for "reciprocity" in Christian-Muslim relations during a speech to members of the pontifical council for migrants. The Vatican office is studying the issue of migration to and from Muslim countries during its annual meeting this week.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the migrant office, has complained recently that while Muslim immigrants are often welcomed into largely Christian countries in Europe and allowed to practice their faith freely, Christian immigrants in the Islamic world are denied those same rights.

Benedict said Christians were called to "open their arms and their hearts to everyone," regardless of their countries of origin.

"Obviously, it is also to be hoped that Christians who emigrate to countries with an Islamic majority find welcome and respect of their religious identities there," he said.

"More and more the importance of reciprocity in dialogue is felt."

Benedict has called for respect for religious rights for Christian minorities in the past.

In a January speech to Vatican-based ambassadors, he lamented that some countries "seriously violate" religious freedom for minorities. He did not name any, but the Vatican has expressed concern about the plight of Roman Catholic minorities in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East.