Pontiff en Route to Lebanon Speaks of Importing Arms as 'Grave Sin'

Urges Importing Instead Ideas, Peace and Creativity

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By Junno Arocho

BEIRUT, Lebanon, SEPT. 14, 2012 (http://www.zenit.org).- During his flight to Lebanon, Benedict XVI responded to journalists’ questions on the Middle East, the rise in fundamentalism and violence through the region. 

The Pope’s three-day trip comes at a moment of particular tension, in the wake of attacks on US embassies in in Egypt and Libya, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three others. Hence, the first question posed to the Holy Father was whether he had considered or been advised to cancel trip.

«No one ever advised me to cancel this trip and I never took that idea into consideration, because I know that as the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity,» he answered. «Therefore the aim of my visit is an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems.»

Speaking on the rise of radical fundamentalism, the Pope spoke of fundamentalism as a “falsification of religion” while religion, instead, is “an invitation to share God’s peace throughout the world.»

“Each of us is an image of God and we must mutually respect each other. The basic message of religion must be against violence which is a falsification like fundamentalism, it must be education and the illumination and purification of conscience to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace,” he said. 

When asked his thoughts on the Arab Spring and the survival of Christianity in a region where Christians are the minority, the Bishop of Rome said that, in itself, the desire for democracy, liberty, and new Arab identity are positive aspects of the Arab Spring. However, he said there is a risk of forgetting one aspect: tolerance of the other. “The fact is that human freedom is always a shared freedom, which can only grow through sharing, solidarity and living together with certain rules. This is always the danger, as it is in this case. We must do all we can so that the concept of freedom, the desire for freedom goes in the direction of true freedom and does not forget tolerance and reconciliation which are essential elements for freedom,” the Pope said. 

Regarding the exodus of Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, the Holy Father said that it is imperative that “we must do all that is possible to help them to stay.” Pope Benedict XVI said the most essential help would be to end that which is causing not only Christians, but Muslims as well, to leave their countries. He also highlighted the importance of spreading a message of peace, saying that even the role of journalists is crucial in helping to show “how violence destroys rather than builds anything, that it is of no use to anyone.”

The Holy Father also called for an end to the importing of arms, calling it “a grave sin”. «[T]here must be an end to the import of arms: without weapons, war could not continue. Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas, peace and creativity. We should accept others in their diversity and make visible the mutual respect of religions, the respect for man as God’s creation and love of neighbour as a fundamental element of all religions. We must promote all possible actions, including material ones, to support the end of war and violence so that all can contribute to the rebuilding of the country,” he said. 

The pope concluded the press conference, saying that apart from prayer and expressions and solidarity, it is crucial to urge political leaders to tackle the growing violence in the Middle East. He also highlighted the importance of material help through charitable organizations. “I would like to say once again that visible signs of solidarity, days of public prayer, can have an impact on public opinion and produce real results. We are convinced that prayer has an effect if it is done with much trust and faith.»

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-35531?l=english 

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