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Pope Says Peace Implies Respect for Religious Symbols

And Condemns Violence as a Response to Offenses

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2006 ( In the midst of the Mohammed cartoon controversy, Benedict XVI is insisting that understanding between peoples implies respect for their religious symbols.

“In the international context we are living at present, the Catholic Church continues convinced that, to foster peace and understanding between peoples and men, it is necessary and urgent that religions and their symbols be respected,” the Pope said today.

The Holy Father added that this implies that “believers not be the object of provocations that wound their lives and religious sentiments.”

At the same time, Benedict XVI made it clear that “intolerance and violence can never be justified as response to offenses, as they are not compatible responses with the sacred principles of religion.”

The Pope made this analysis when receiving the letters of credence of Ali Achour, Morocco’s new ambassador to the Holy See. The Bishop of Rome said that Morocco wishes to be involved in the “consolidation of the dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions.”

He said that one must “deplore the actions of those who deliberately take advantage of the offense caused to religious sentiments to foment violent acts, and with greater reason when they take place with ends foreign to those of religion.”

Benedict XVI noted that “for believers, as for all people of good will, the only path that can lead to peace and fraternity is respect for the convictions and religious practices of others.”

The Holy Father requested that this respect be guaranteed “in a reciprocal manner in all societies,” to ensure for all “the exercise of the religion freely chosen.”

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