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Pope urges unity against fanatics

Pope John Paul II condemned terrorism and religious fundamentalism on Monday, saying they profaned "the name of God" and disfigured "the image of man".

All believers, he said during the second day of his visit to Kazakhstan, must join forces so that God "may never become hostage to the ambitions of men". Kazakhstan's southern border is just 320 kilometres from Afghanistan.

The Pope added that the Catholic Church respects "the real Islam", but his words were the strongest he has uttered so far in connection with the current international crisis.

Addressing Kazakhstan's cultural leaders shortly before he left the country, the Pope described "the authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, and stands by those in need".

He said: "Recalling the errors of the past, including the most recent past, all believers ought to unite their efforts to ensure that God is never made the hostage of human ambitions."

In what seemed to be a veiled reference to Afghanistan, he said the nature of "those lands" of central Asia was harsh, and their history marked by vicissitudes.

"The wide-open spaces of your plains," he said, "the sense of human fragility, fuelled by the unleashing of the forces of nature, and the perception of the mystery hidden behind phenomena felt by the senses; all these favour in your people an opening to the fundamental questions of man and the exploration of meaningful answers for the universal culture.

"All believers," he continued, "must join forces, in order that God may never become hostages of the ambtions of men.

"Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God, and disfigure the authenticity of the image of Man and the memories of the errors of the past, even the recent past," the Pope said.

Daily Telegraph (London)