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Pope calls 'clash of religions' a contradiction in terms

Pope John Paul II made it clear on Friday that the events unleashed by the 11 September terrorist attacks are not a "clash of religions," because that would be a contradiction of the very essence of religion.

Since the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the Pope has preached the need for dialogue between cultures and religions. And he did so when he addressed the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Vatican organisation last week brought together 15 cardinals, two patriarchs and 29 bishops to prepare a document on "The Spirituality of Dialogue." The document, due out possibly in 2002, will offer guidelines to Catholics on dialogue with believers of other religions.

"It has been suggested that we are witnessing a veritable clash of religions," the Holy Father. "However, as I have already said on numerous occasions, this would falsify religion itself."

"Believers know that, far from doing evil, they are obliged to do good, to work to alleviate human suffering, to build together a just and harmonious world," the Holy Father said.

"If it is imperative for the international community to foster good relations between people belonging to different ethnic and religious traditions, it is all the more urgent for believers themselves to foster relations characterized by openness and trust, and leading to common concern for the well-being of the whole human family," John Paul II said.