A plan to make Catholic and Sikh dialogue more permanently structured was discussed at recent meeting in Rome between the leader of the Guru Nanak Sikh community based in Soho Road, Birmingham, Bhai Sahib-ji Mohinder Singh, and Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, writes Peter Jennings. The Sikh Leader was accompanied by Mr Sewa Singh Mandla (his right hand man), and four members of his community, during the hour-long meeting with Cardinal Poupard, and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, on 28 September. At the end of the hour-long discussions, Cardinal Poupard told the group: "This has been not so much a dialogue as a real exchange between people". The meeting was arranged by Bill Ozanne Secretary of the Birmingham Archdiocesan Commission for Other Faiths. He was assisted by Mgr Felix Machado, Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and Archbishop Faustino Sainz-Munos, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain. Afterwards, Mr Ozanne said: "During the meeting with Cardinal Poupard we explored ways in which Faiths could co-operate in an age of hostile secularism by emphasising the presence of God to bring peace, strengthen marriage and help the spiritual formation of children, rather than merely gathering information. "We set out with three objectives: To give support to Pope Benedict XVI by renewing the bond of friendship between the Sikh community in Birmingham and the Catholic Church; to renew the warm and open relationship we have had with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; to set up a permanent structure for continuing dialogue between Sikhs world-wide and the Holy See." Mr Ozanne added: "After the meeting we visited the Focolare world headquarters near Castelgandolfo, where the Sikhs sang their evening prayers in the chapel, and renewed their relationship which has been built up over the years." While in Rome, the group had an opportunity to greet Pope Benedict XVI personally during the General Audience held in St Peter's Square on Wednesday 27 September. Sikh Leader, Mr Bhai Sahib-ji Mohinder Singh attended the great World Day of Prayer held in Assisi on 24 January 2002, when at the invitation of Pope John Paul II, representatives of different religious faiths and Christian denominations, spent a day together in prayer. He was also present at the Funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday 8 April 2005. Meanwhile, in April 2007 the first of three international meetings between the Sikh community and the Church will be held in Birmingham at the Guru Nanak Gurudwara in Handsworth.
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