Pope Benedict XVI yesterday urged religious leaders of all kinds to unite against those who use faith to divide communities — an apparent reference to terrorism in the name of religion.
“In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity,” Benedict told a gathering of clerics from different faiths in Sydney.
He met representatives of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faiths for about 40 minutes during the Roman Catholic Church’s youth festival, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Sydney.
Without mentioning terrorism directly, the pontiff said creating harmony between religion and public life was “all the more important at a time when some people have come to consider religion as a cause of division rather than a force for unity.”
Benedict also stressed that religion was a “fundamental right” of all people that could not be contained by geography — an apparent reference to efforts such as China’s to control some forms of religion.
The pope did not directly mention China.
The remarks come as the Vatican tries to repair ties with both the Islamic world, which he angered in 2006 with a speech that appeared to associate Islam with violence, and with China, whose communist leaders cut ties with the Roman Catholic Church in 1951.
China and the Vatican have never restored formal ties. Beijing objects to the Vatican’s tradition of having the pope name his own bishops, calling it interference in China’s affairs.
China appoints bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic Church.
Still, many of the country’s estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church. Benedict is eager for the Holy See to re-establish diplomatic ties with China to better protect his flock there.
The 81-year-old pontiff had only a slightly less hectic schedule yesterday than the previous day. He met with Australian officials and had lunch with a group of young pilgrims, then blessed a live recreation of The Last Supper, Christ’s crucifixion and other events in the last days of Jesus known as the stations of the cross.
He was due to have an evening meeting with a group of disadvantaged young people.
On Thursday, the pontiff, appearing rested and in good form, gave his first major speech before an estimated crowd of 200,000 pilgrims gathered for World Youth Day.
Tens of thousands more lined Sydney harbor’s foreshore as he toured the city, first by boat and then in the “popemobile.”
In his address, Benedict warned that mankind’s “insatiable consumption” has scarred the Earth and squandered its resources, telling followers that taking care of the planet is vital to humanity — striking a theme that has earned him a reputation as the “green pope.”
He told reporters during the flight from Rome to Australia that he believes the Church in the West is in “crisis” because people feel they have no need for God. On Thursday, he warned the pilgrims of the threats from secularism.
“If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image and debate and policy concerning the public good will be driven more by consequences than by principles grounded in truth,” he said.
It is all part of what he called a “poison” threatening to corrode the good in society.
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