Religions cannot be "vehicles of hatred," says Benedict

Meeting on October 22 with the heads of the delegations participating in the 21st International Meeting for Peace, an annual initiative promoted by the Sant'Egidio Community, Benedict XVI implored the assembled that religions never be used in the cause of promoting hatred or violence.

The conference theme this year is: "A world without violence, faiths and cultures in dialogue."

"What you represent," said Benedict, "in a certain sense expresses the different worlds and religious heritages of humanity, to which the Catholic Church looks with sincere respect and cordial attention.

"While respecting the differences of the various religions, we are called to work for peace, and to an effective commitment to promote reconciliation between peoples," said Benedict. "This is the true 'spirit of Assisi' which is opposed to all forms of violence and to all abuses of religion as a pretext for violence. Faced with a world riven by conflict, where sometime violence is justified in the name of God, it is important to reiterate that religions can never become vehicles of hatred, that never by invoking the name of God can evil and violence be justified.

"Quite the contrary, religions can and must offer valuable resources for the creation of a peaceful humanity, because they speak to man's heart of peace. The Catholic Church intends to continue down the path of dialogue in order to favor understanding between religious cultures, traditions and wisdom. It is my heartfelt hope that this spirit may become ever more widespread, especially where tensions are strongest, where freedom and respect for others are denied, and men and women suffer the consequences of intolerance and incomprehension.

"The current meeting takes us back in our minds to 1986 when ... John Paul II invited high-level religious representatives to the town of St. Francis in order to pray for peace, underlining on that occasion the intrinsic link uniting authentic religious attitudes with this fundamental good for humanity," he said, remembering how in 2002, following the attack against the World Trade Center in New York of September 11, 2001, John Paul II again invited religious leaders to Assisi "to ask God to put an end to the grave perils threatening humanity, especially because of terrorism.

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