Christians should pray for Osama bin Laden's soul even though he was their enemy, as forgiveness is a key teaching in the Bible, a cardinal told an Italian daily in an interview out today.

"I have prayed for the soul of Osama Bin Laden. We have to pray for him just like we pray for the victims of September 11. It's what Jesus teaches Christians," French cardinal Albert Vanhoye, 87, told Il Messaggero daily.

"Jesus obliges us to forgive our enemies. The 'Our Father' that we recite every day says that. Does it not say 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us'?" Vanhoye said.

"It's not possible to accept this prayer while holding on to rancour and cultivating hatred against our enemies," he said.

Vanhoye, a Jesuit priest, was made a cardinal in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition for his scholarly work on the Bible.

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