THE challenge for religious leaders in years to come is to tackle violence and terrorism committed in God’s name … and to reach out to people who have no faith.
That was the message brought yesterday by Pope Ratzinger to Assisi, the scene of a global inter-religious junket. There the Pope told a mishmash of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Shintoists and Buddhists:
Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon Earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love.
In a major address at the start of the gathering, according to this report, Ratzinger begged forgiveness for his own church’s use of violence in the past.
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. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature.
Benedict said history had also shown that the denial of God could bring about:
A degree of violence that knows no bounds.
He said the concentration camps of World War Two revealed:
With utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.
He is reported here as saying that the Nazi death camps clearly proved that:
The denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria [for judging right and wrong] and leads him to violence.
Yesterday’s gathering included four people billed as “non-believers”. Agnostics, the Pope said, had been invited to represent people in the world who have no faith but are:
On the lookout for truth, searching for God.
He said such non-believers should not be confused with militant atheists, who, he said, live in the “false certainty” that there is no God.
Also present at Assisi was the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, who said here that the cross:
Is not for crusades but a sign of God’s love embracing everybody.