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Pope Says Believers Must Oppose Violence to Promote Peace

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Religious leaders attend the gathering for peace outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi 27 Oct. Pictured from left are: Archbishop Norvan Zakarian of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Pope Benedict XVI; Rabbi David Rosen, representing the chief rabbinate of Israel; Wande Abimbola, representing the traditional religion of Nigeria’s Yoruba people; Shrivatsa Goswami, a Hindu delegate; and Ja Seung, he ad of South Korea’s Buddhist Jogye order. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring) 

28 Oct 2011 – by Cindy Wooden

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) — Taking 300 religious leaders with him on pilgrimage to Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI said people who are suspicious of religion cannot be blamed for questioning God’s existence when they see believers use religion to justify violence.

“All their struggling and questioning is, in part, an appeal to believers to purify their faith so that God, the true God, becomes accessible,” the pope said Oct. 27 during an interfaith gathering in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

Marking the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi interfaith gathering for peace, hosted by Blessed John Paul II in 1986, Pope Benedict brought together the religious leaders and — for the first time —four philosophers who describe themselves as humanists or seekers who do not identify with any single religion.

After a train ride of almost two hours from the Vatican, Pope Benedict and his guests arrived in Assisi and were driven to the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels for the morning gathering focused on “testimonies for peace.”

Entering the basilica before the pope, the delegates created an unusually colorful congregation: They wore white, black or crimson robes or business suits; on their heads were skullcaps, turbans, scarves or veils.

The pope condemned the use of religion to excuse violence and the use of violence to impose a religion, as well as the growing violence resulting from "the loss of humanity" that comes from denying the existence of God and of objective moral standards.

“As a Christian, I want to say at this point: Yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame,” Pope Benedict said.

Christian leaders, like all religious leaders, he said, must work constantly to help their followers purify their faith and be “an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.”

But a lack of religion is not the answer to world peace, he said.

The Nazi death camps clearly proved that “the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria (for judging right and wrong) and leads him to violence,” the pope said.

On the other hand, he said, many nonbeliever also are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.”

“These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practiced. Their inability to find God is Thursday, October 27, 2011 partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God,” he said.

“They challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others,” the pope said.





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Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Interreligious Interfaith Assisi