Pope Stresses Role of Religious Leaders Against Terrorism

Condemns Violence in Philippines

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Religious leaders have a vital role to play in the campaign against terrorism and violence, says John Paul II.

«The various Christian confessions, as well as the world’s great religions, need to work together to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism,» the Pope stressed today when receiving a group of Philippine bishops on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

«They can do this by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person, and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family,» he added.

The Holy Father was forceful in his condemnation of «terrorist activity in the Philippines and the abhorrent episodes of violence erupting there.»

«I share your preoccupations and am close to you and your people in these painful and distressing circumstances,» he told the bishops.

Abu Sayyaf is the most feared guerrilla group operating in the southern Philippines. Victims of the Muslim extremist group have included tourists and religious. The group’s stated goal is the establishment of an independent Muslim state.

«With you, I cannot condemn such acts strongly enough,» the Pope told the bishops. «I call on the parties involved to lay down the weapons of death and destruction, rejecting the despair and hatred which these entail, and to take up the arms of mutual understanding, commitment and hope.»

«These are the sure foundations for building a future of authentic peace and justice for all,» he said.

In this context, the Pontiff made «an explicit call for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.»

He encouraged the efforts of the Philippine bishops in this regard and urged them «to increase the opportunities for yourselves and your communities to engage in fruitful exchanges with other believers in Christ and with your Muslim brothers and sisters.»

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