In Afghanistan, Catholic priest hopes for Pope sympathetic to Islam

Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:20am EDT
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By Jeremy Laurence

KABUL (Reuters) - Father Giuseppe Moretti's tiny Catholic Church and his own "Little Vatican" sits behind towering blast-proof walls topped with razor wire, and a guard tower manned by soldiers carrying AK-47 rifles.

From the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, a country seen as the front line in the fight against Islamist militancy, the 75-year-old Italian priest is closely following the conclave at the Vatican to choose the leader of the Catholic Church.

Even war cannot stop television stations beaming live coverage of news from the Vatican.

As long as you have a satellite dish, you can take your pick of the Vatican Channel, Italy's Rai Uno or Al Jazeera among dozens of others following the ins and outs of the election.

Moretti, who carries shrapnel wounds from a bomb attack sustained during the Afghan civil war about two decades ago, has his own favorite: Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan and one of the main contenders to win the papacy.

"Of course, as an Italian, I would like an Italian. And Scola has a very deep connection with Islamic people," he said, adding he hoped the next Pope would also take a close interest in the developing world and alleviating poverty.

Scola, 71, knows Islam as head of a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding.

Moretti, who was born in the Italian province of Le Marche, confidently predicts white smoke signaling a winner will puff from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel before Sunday.   Continued...

Father Giuseppe Moretti gestures at a Catholic Church in Kabul March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail