Pope Benedict XVI condems "ideological manipulation of religion" and called for reconciliation between Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Benedict calls for reconciliation
Pope Benedict XVI on today condemned "ideological manipulation of religion" and called for reconciliation between Christians, Jews and Muslims on the second day of his Middle East tour. Addressing Muslim leaders in Amman's huge Al Hussein Mosque, the pontiff bemoaned "tensions and divisions" between followers of different faiths and urged Muslims and Christians to unite as "worshippers of God". "Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied," the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics told his audience today. "However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?"
On his arrival in Amman yesterday at the start of his eight-day Holy Land tour that will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Benedict underlined his "deep respect" for Islam. The pope said he was sorry and that the quotes did not reflect his personal views. But the comments continue to fuel criticism by some Muslims. The pontiff told journalists that interfaith dialogue was "very important for peace," adding: The Church "is not a political force but a spiritual force which can contribute to the progress of the peace process" in the Middle East. In his address to Muslim leaders today, he warned against allowing religion to become a source of division. "We cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God," he told his audience.
"Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognised as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty's decrees." On Monday, the pope will begin the second stage of his trip by flying to Israel where he is also expected again to focus on building bridges between the faiths. *AFP