Benedict XVI: Religion Is Not a Vehicle of Hate

Urges Promotion of the "Spirit of Assisi"

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NAPLES, Italy, OCT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Violence in the name of God can never be justified, Benedict XVI told a gathering of interreligious leaders in Naples, urging them to promote peace and the "spirit of Assisi."

Pope's appeal today resounded in the archdiocesan seminary of Capodimonte on the first day of the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions. The meeting, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio in Naples until Oct. 23, has as its theme "Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue."

"Faced with a world lacerated by conflicts," the Holy Father said, "where at times violence is justified in the name of God, it is important to re-emphasize that religion can never be a vehicle of hate; never, in the name of God, can we justify evil and violence."

"On the contrary," he added, "because they speak of peace to the human heart, religions can offer precious resources for building a peaceful humanity."

Benedict XVI met with various participants in the meeting, including Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I; the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; one of Israel's chief rabbis, Yona Metzger; the rector of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb; and the Imam of the United Arab Emirates, Ibrahim Ezzedin.

Understanding

The Holy Father confirmed that the Catholic Church intends "to continue along the road of dialogue to promote understanding among different cultures, traditions and religious wisdom."

"I ardently desire that this spirit spread more and more, especially where the tensions are strongest, where freedom and respect for the other are denied and men and women suffer the consequences of intolerance and misunderstanding," the Pope added.

He continued: "This meeting turns our minds back to 1986, when my venerable predecessor, John Paul II, invited major religious representatives to pray for peace on the hill of St. Francis, highlighting in those circumstances the intrinsic link that unites an authentic religious attitude with a living sensibility for this basic good of humanity.

"In 2002, after the dramatic events of Sept. 11 of the previous year, the same John Paul II again called religious leaders to Assisi to ask God to stop the grave threats to humanity that were looming, especially because of terrorism.

"In respect of the differences of the various religions, we are all called to work for peace and to an active commitment to promote reconciliation between peoples. It is this authentic 'spirit of Assisi' which is opposed to every form of violence and abuse of religion as a pretext for violence."