VATICAN CITY, 1 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"Today, 1 October 2009, in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Asif Ali Zardari, president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. President Zardari subsequently went on to meet Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

"The cordial discussions provided an opportunity to examine the current situation in Pakistan, with particular reference to the fight against terrorism and the commitment to create a society more tolerant and harmonious in all its aspects.

"Talk then turned to the positive role played by the Catholic Church in the social life of the country through her educational, healthcare and aid activities. Evoking recent episodes of violence against Christian communities in some localities, and the elements that have favoured such serious incidents, emphasis was given to the need to overcome all forms of discrimination based on religious affiliation, with the aim of promoting respect for the rights of all citizens".

OP/AUDIENCE PRESIDENT/PAKISTAN                                      VIS 091001 (190)

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