Pakistani official meets with the pope

VATICAN CITY -- A Pakistani government official met with Pope Benedict XVI after his general audience to discuss "the expectations and hopes of Christians" in Pakistan, according to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency.

At the brief meeting Nov. 16, Akram Masih Gill, the minister of state for national harmony, said he asked the pope "to pray for the faithful Pakistanis who, during the difficulties they encounter every day, trust in his support."

Gill, a practicing Catholic, was named in August to head the ministry that deals with interfaith relations and minority affairs in Pakistan. His predecessor, Shahbaz Bhatti, also a Catholic, was assassinated last March.

During his visit to Rome, Gill met with Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, and established a joint project between the university and the Pakistani government agency to promote harmony and dialogues between different faith groups, Fides reported.

The project envisions the exchange of professors, students and books, as well as the joint organization of conferences on issues like dialogue between faiths and religious harmony.

Pope: Prostitution, pornography threaten human dignity of women

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to prostitution and pornography, saying the practices denigrate women and represent "a serious lack of humanity."

The pope made the remarks as he welcomed Reinhard Schweppe as Germany's ambassador to the Holy See Nov. 7. The pope's talk focused on the church's role in defending human dignity.

"A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity," the pope said.

With the "materialistic and hedonistic tendencies" that seem to be gaining space in the West, there is a growing form of discrimination against women, the pope said.

"The moment has come to energetically halt prostitution as well as the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the Internet in particular," he said.

The pope said the Holy See would encourage and assist the Catholic Church in Germany so efforts "against these types of abuse would be more decisive and clearer."