Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 29, 2005
Pope urges Muslims to fight fanaticism
By JOHN THAVIS
Catholic News Service
Meeting with Muslims in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI condemned terrorism in unusually forceful terms and called on Islamic leaders to help "turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism" in the world.
In his talk Aug. 20 in Cologne, the pope emphasized the responsibility of Muslim educators to form younger generations in the Islamic faith and promote attitudes of interreligious cooperation.
In particular, he said, the message that every human life is sacred "must be heeded and communicated to others. Should it ever cease to find an echo in people's hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism."
The 10 Islamic leaders - seven men and three women - represented more than 3.2 million Muslims who now reside in the pope's native Germany, about four per cent of the total population. Most of Germany's Muslims are Turks who came to the country for jobs.
The pope's remarks about terrorism were the most extensive of his pontificate. He said he was sure the Muslim representatives shared his concern about the spread of terrorist attacks today.
"Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair," he said.
"Terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel decision which shows contempt for the sacred right to life," he said.
The pope maintained that those who instigate and plan terrorist attacks want to poison relations between Christians and Muslims.
In response, he said, Muslims and Christians need to work together to eliminate hatred and intolerance and oppose "every manifestation of violence."
If they succeed, he said, "we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress toward world peace."
By recognizing the centrality of the person, he said, Christians and Muslims can move beyond "cultural conflicts."
The pope underlined the importance of education in the struggle for interreligious harmony and said the clerics have a "great responsibility" for the formation of the younger generation.
"You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind," he said.
For its part, he said, the Catholic Church looks on Muslims with respect, as a people who worship the same God and share some of the spiritual heritage of Christianity.
The pope said that under his papacy, the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with other religions, recognizing that past relations between Muslims and Christians have not always been good.
Pope Benedict said the lessons of history should help both religions avoid repeating the same mistakes. One essential element is defence of religious freedom and respect for minorities.
Nadeem Elyas, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, left a written message with the pope, saying he considered terrorism a common foe of Christianity and Muslims.
He said it was time to put an end to "the black chapters of our common history," as the Vatican tried to do through the "mea culpa" reflections of Pope John Paul II's pontificate.
"The Islamic world should also acknowledge its historical guilt and be ready to make a constructive new start," he said.