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COLOGNE, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI, in his first major address on Islamist terrorism, yesterday implored Muslims to help Christians fight the “wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress toward world peace.”
“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,” Benedict told a group of Muslim leaders at the Archbishop of Cologne’s residence.
“Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together,” the 78-year-old pontiff said.
“As Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time,” he said.
Reaching out to Protestants, Jews and Muslims has been a major theme of Benedict’s visit to the six-day Catholic festival known as World Youth Day, which has attracted more than 400,000 young pilgrims from almost every nation.
On Friday, the pope met with Protestant and Jewish leaders and visited a Cologne synagogue, where he condemned Nazi ideology and urged an improved relationship between Christians and Jews.
Yesterday, Benedict urged Christians and Muslims to learn from mistakes of the past, alluding to the Crusades, which began in 1095 and lasted for hundreds of years.
“How many pages of history record battles and even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to Him?” he asked. “The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.”
The pontiff urged Muslims to take responsibility for teaching their children and to “guide and train them in the Islamic faith.”
“Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted,” he said. “Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation.”
Nadeem Elyas, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, agreed. He told the pope that terrorism is “the common enemy of Christianity and Islam.”
Ridvan Cakir, president of the Turkish Islamic Union, said that “memories of hostility and war are a source of pain for all of humankind.”
“If we want to avoid going through such suffering all over again, we, the members of the Abrahamic religions — and Christians and Muslims in particular — have important obligations to fulfill.”
More than 3 million Muslims live in Germany, a nation of about 82 million. Most are of Turkish origin.
Benedict angered Turks when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s doctrinal “watchdog” under Pope John Paul II, he said Europe must keep to its Christian heritage and discouraged Turkey’s aspiration to join the EU.
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