ASSISI, Italy – Along with other religious leaders with Pope Benedict XVI on pilgrimage to Assisi, he stated that “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 expressed on October 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 has invited many other religious leaders.
“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 shared with the audience.
The pope further added that Christian leaders, like all religious leaders must work continuously to help their followers purify their faith and be “an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.”
“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 partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God,” he mentioned.
“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 also added.
Sitting right beside Pope Benedict were Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Rabbi David Rosen, who represents the chief rabbinate of Israel, and Wande Abimbola, president of a Nigerian institute which is aimed to promote the study of the culture and traditional religion of the Yoruba people.
Pope Benedict had been the last to read his comment before the crowd. He stated: “Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!”
After a brief silence of prayer, the Pope Benedict and other leaders were handed oil lamps just like the one that burns before the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. The said gathering was concluded with the delegates exchanging a sign of peace and Pope Benedict exchanging big smiles to the audience.
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