At a ceremony to carry the "torch of peace," held in Norcia, Italy, St. Benedict's birthplace, the cardinal said: "God is reconciliation and peace. He must be seen as the one who unites us and not as the one who separates us and justifies violence."

The cardinal's statements, broadcasted by RAI, the Italian state television channel, were referring to the religious invocations coming at this time from Washington and Baghdad to justify the war in Iraq to their respective peoples.

"The Holy Father has stressed numerous times that violence cannot be invoked in the name of God," he added.

Cardinal Ratzinger said that the use of religious motivations in the current war was "sad." In his judgment, the conflict "does not respond to criteria of legitimacy."