Senegal cardinal thanks Muslim cleric for prayers

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DAKAR, Oct 18 (Reuters) Senegal's new Roman Catholic cardinal, Theodore-Adrien Sarr, today thanked an Islamic cleric in the mainly Muslim West African country for praying for his nomination.

Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, was among 23 cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict yesterday from around the world, in choices the Pontiff said reflected the universal nature of the 1.1-billion-member Church.

The Senegalese prelate disclosed hours after his nomination that Muslim cleric Habibou Tall had predicted publicly he would be made a cardinal before the end of the year.

''He said he was going to pray for that to happen,'' Sarr told reporters. ''I know he has prayed for that to happen and I thank him for that.'' Although it has a 95-per cent Muslim population, Senegal -- a nation of 12 million people on Africa's western tip -- is renowned for its tolerance among Muslims and Christians. A Christian president, Leopold Senghor, ruled the former French colony for more than 20 years.

Many Christians in Senegal's breezy coastal capital Dakar expressed happiness at Sarr's appointment.

''There are countries where Christians are the biggest majority, but a cardinal was not named there, and we in small Senegal with a tiny population of Christians, we got one! We are simply blessed,'' said Alioune Ndiaye, 35, a brick maker.

Many Muslims expressed satisfaction at the appointment of the respected prelate.

''The new cardinal, Theodore Sarr, will work hard to strengthen the already good relations between Muslim and Christians,'' said Abdoulaye Diop, 45, a book-keeper of Muslim faith.

REUTERS PD KN1834

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