The Vatican and Malaysia established diplomatic relations on Monday in the wake of tensions between Muslims and religious minorities in the Southeast Asian nation.
The Vatican announced the agreement after Pope Benedict XVI met with Malaysia’s prime minister, only the second meeting between a government chief from the Southeast Asian nation and a pontiff. The first was in 2002 for talks focusing on Christian-Muslim relations.
In recent years, religious minority groups in Malaysia have complained of discrimination by the country’s Muslim majority. Roman Catholics and other Christians comprise nearly 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 28 million people.
The Vatican said Prime Minister Najib Razak met with Benedict at the pontiff’s summer residence in Castelgandolfo in the Alban Hills south of Rome and then with other top Vatican officials.
“In the cordial conversations the positive developments in bilateral relations were discussed and an agreement was reached to establish diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Holy See,” the Vatican statement said.
They also discussed the importance of cultural and religious dialogue for the promotion of peace and justice, it said. Najib said Malaysia’s goal is to promote international bonds of friendship to cultivate harmony.