July 18, 2011. (Romereports.com)
After a groundbreaking meeting, Malaysia now has diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The country's prime minister Najib Abdul Razak met with the pope on Monday at Castel Gandolfo.
The pope took a break from his summer vacation to meet with Razak, who gave Benedict XVI this piece of artwork and also a book. Afterward, both leaders held a private meeting to officially establish diplomatic ties.
For years, Malaysia was one of a few predominantly Muslim countries without formal ties to the Vatican. It has a population of 28 million people. About nine percent are Christians and roughly 850,000 of them are Catholics.
The move is described as positive not only in diplomatic terms, but also for inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. In recent years, Christians in Malaysia were concerned about religious freedom. Bibles were reportedly seized and attacks against churches increased.
With this agreement, supporters say Malaysia is taking a step forward in its Muslim-Christian cooperation, especially when it comes to being described as a religiously moderate country.
With Malaysia now on the list, the Vatican will have diplomatic relations with 179 countries.
At least sixteen major countries though, including China, Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia don't have any diplomatic ties with the Vatican.