Hindus want Pope to discuss religious equality during Malta visit

Valletta, Malta - A Hindu organisation on Monday urged Malta's archbishop to arrange an interfaith dialogue with Pope Benedict during his April visit to discuss "religious equality". Archbishop Paul Cremona should organise a meeting of leaders of different religions so they can share minority viewpoints, the US- based Universal Society of Hinduism said in a statement.

Hindu society president Rajan Zed said Catholics and the pope had a moral responsibility to take care of minority groups from different faiths and backgrounds.

The Pope is visiting Malta on April 17-18 to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St Paul's shipwreck on the island on his way to stand trial in Rome, which is said to have brought Christianity to the island.

The pontiff is widely expected to speak about the handling of illegal immigrants from Africa who pass through Malta on their way to Europe.

Zed also urged Malta to treat all religions and denominations equally in front of the law.

He said the Maltese Criminal Code provides for up to six months imprisonment for publicly vilifying the "Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion," while committing such act against "any cult tolerated by law" is punishable by only three months.