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Religion and violence

On the papal Journey Benedict XVI's first words were clear and his message was strong and decisive. During the interview with the journalists on the flight to Beirut the Pope pronounced himself to be unequivocally against war and against violence. Spoken by a courageous and determined man of peace, who in answer to a question on the hypothesis of giving up his journey to Lebanon replied that he had not been advised to do by his co-workers and that its cancellation had never even crossed his mind.

On the contrary, the present situation which, under the eyes of all – with its lengthening shadows of intolerance, fanaticism, violence and war – makes the Journey even more necessary, to encourage all who live in the region to resist violence, Benedict XVI said. And he immediately specified that these lands are linked to the origins of the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Places and three names which during his visit to the Holy Land prompted the Pope to launch the idea of a three-way dialogue (a tria-logue).

The papal message today – a message which of course has political significance but is addressed to religions and comes at the beginning of a journey with clear religious connotations – once again proposes the ongoing need for purification. Perfectly consistent with the interventions and positions that he has ceaselessly taken since the beginning of his Pontificate, Benedict XVI thus repeated that fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion. Purification is consequently a task of the Church and of the different religions, against all forms of violence and working on consciences in order to build peace.

The Pope's explicit appreciation of the so-called “Arab Spring” fits into this framework. A reality in itself positive – hence a sign of progress – in the desire for democracy, freedom and a renewed Arab identity, even though it is necessary to make every effort to ensure that this desire is protected and not annulled by intolerance, always a threat with regard to minorities. It is therefore indispensable that the positive aspiration to freedom nourish dialogue and coexistence between the majority and the minorities. The historic case of Lebanon is exemplary in this regard. It constitutes a model to which President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon and Benedict XVI both referred in their respective discourses on his arrival in Beirut.

Are these words spoken by the Pope far from reality? On the contrary, in continuity with his Predecessors, Benedict XVI has come to grips with the dramatic situation of the region, marked by the exodus of many Christians – from those lands which are the cradle of the faith – but also of many Muslims. And it is essential to do everything for them to remain, to end the war, to spread the message of peace, and to halt the arms trade, so that they can rebuild together. With the support of the weapons of true believers: prayers to the one God.

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St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 18, 2018

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