Swiss foreign minister in Algeria for St Augustine conference
The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has visited Algeria to attend a conference devoted to the life of St Augustine.
Deiss opened the conference with the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The event, a joint Swiss-Algerian cultural project, was launched by Bouteflika during Deiss' last tour of the region in October 1999 to re-examine the life of St Augustine, a 5th century bishop of Hippo, near present-day Annaba on the Algerian coast.
The conference brings together 40 experts from 15 countries, including St Augustine specialists from the theology faculty of Switzerland's Fribourg University.
Before officially opening the conference, Deiss visited the archaeological site of Tipaza, 70 kilometres from the Algerian capital, Algiers.
Although Deiss will hold talks with the Algerian president, the purpose of the visit is not to discuss relations between the two countries but to explore the "great impact of St Augustine," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
"It was decided to get together to rediscover St Augustine. He was one of humanity's great thinkers and the conference will examine the universal dimensions of his teachings."
Born in Tagaste (now Souk Ahras) when the region was under Roman rule in 354, St Augustine was a prolific writer whose surviving works amount to at least a dozen volumes totalling five million words. Some of the most important editions of his complete works were published in Basel in 1505.
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