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Pope says anti-terror fight is moral

Pope John Paul II on Tuesday endorsed the view that countries have the moral and legal right to defend themselves against terrorism, but said forgiveness is also needed for true peace to take root in the world.

The comments, the pope's strongest on the principle of "just wars" since 11 September, were contained his annual message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January. The Vatican released the message on Tuesday, three months after the terrorist attacks in the United States.

To mark the date, American Cardinal Edmond Szoka celebrated a special Vatican Mass that began at 2:46 p.m., the time locally when the first hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

Calling the attacks a "horrendous massacre" and a true crime against humanity, John Paul said in his speech that terrorism is "born in hatred", flourishes in poverty, isolation and fanaticism and leads to a "tragic spiral of violence that involves each new generation."

Nevertheless, he said, there was no way to justify acts of terror - either in the name of religion or to combat world injustices.

"Terrorism's pretext that it acts in the name of poverty is clearly false," he said. "Terrorist violence is contrary to the faith in God."

Papal Message for World Day of Peace (text)
Pope says true peace must include justice as well as forgiveness (CNS)