A CATHOLIC bishop in Libya has said the view that Catholics there have of the faith contrasts sharply with the image presented by the Western media.
Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli, who is responsible for Libya's Catholics, most of whom are immigrants, said: "A superficial reading of Libya would describe this country as fanatic, extremist and tyrannical, but, in reality, it is a country with an age-old vocation to dialogue."
But, he said, the president of Libya, Moanunar Gadhafi, is presented "only in his antiWestern and pan-Arabic facet, but deep down Libya stands for a reformed Islam".
The majority of Catholics in the country are from Sudan, Poland, the Philippines, Italy and other areas, especially Africa. Libya, a country of Bedouin tradition, has had a Christian presence since AD 70. In 189 AD, a Libyan became Pope and took the name, Victor I. His pontificate lasted about a decade. Officially, there are 50,000 Catholics in Libya. Bishop Martinelli believes there are 100,000 baptised Catholics in the country.