Libya's NTC 'values church presence'

Vatican City - The new Libyan authorities look favourably on the presence of the Roman Catholic church, which was "positive alongside that of Muslims", the papal envoy in Libya, Tommaso Caputo, said on Tuesday.

Archbishop Caputo, Catholic nuncio to Malta and Libya, is visiting Tripoli to make the Vatican's first contact with the new authorities in the National Transitional Council (NTC), former rebels who ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Interviewed on Vatican Radio, the diplomat from the Holy See, who lives permanently in Malta, said he had "much hope for the future" of the north African country after Colonel Gaddafi’s fall.

Caputo spoke of the long-standing, "much appreciated presence" of the Church which was seen as "positive alongside that of our Muslim brothers." He had talks with several officials, including Mahmoud Jibril, who heads the executive committee of the ruling NTC.

Jibril is a liberal who faces opposition from radical Muslims and who has announced that he will not play a role in a future government.

Caputo said that his Libyan interlocutors had "confirmed that the Church is appreciated. They spoke to me of the importance of relations with the Holy See, an important actor on the international stage."

There is no permanent nuncio in Tripoli because of the small size of the Roman Catholic community, which is tended to by an apostolic vicar with the rank of bishop, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli.

The Catholic community in Libya largely consists of expatriates from Catholic countries who came to find work in the north African nation. Many fled this year's conflict.

During the conflict, the Vatican condemned the use of violence and called for negotiations between the insurgents and Gaddafi’s regime.

The first official contact between a papal envoy and Libya's new rulers only came after Gaddafi’s regime had lost control of the country and many countries around the world had recognised the NTC.

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