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Pope denounces use of religion as tool of violence

Greeting a delegation of Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish religious representatives from Azerbaijan, Pope John Paul II has insisted that no one has the right to use religion as an instrument of intolerance or violence.

The delegation was in Rome to return the Holy Father's visit in 2002 to their Caucasus country, which has only about 300 Catholics.

"No one has the right to present or use religions as instrument of intolerance, as a means of aggression, violence or death," he stressed in his address, which he delivered in Russian.

"On the contrary, their reciprocal friendship and esteem, if supported also by the government leaders' commitment to tolerance, constitutes a rich resource of authentic progress and peace," the Pope said.

"Together - Muslims, Jews, Christians - we wish to address in the name of God and of civilization an appeal to humanity to halt murderous violence and undertake the path of love and justice for all," the Holy Father continued.

He highlighted the fact that "this is the path of religions" and expressed the hope "that God will help us to go forward on this path with perseverance and patience."

John Paul II also referred to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijani territory, which triggered a war between both states in 1991 and ended with the cease-fire of 1994 and Armenia's annexation, not only of the disputed territory, but of other Azerbaijani lands as well.

The Pope expressed his heartfelt hope that "Azerbaijan will return to the fullness of peace." He said that this conflict, "as all other disputes, must be addressed with good will, in the mutual search for reciprocal openings of understanding and in a spirit of genuine reconciliation."

In a statement published after the meeting, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls revealed that "during the audience the religious leaders confirmed to the Pope their constant commitment to collaborate with peace and to promote peaceful coexistence among the different religions."

The republic of Azerbaijan, which became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has 7.8 million inhabitants, mostly Muslims.

The Catholic community in Azerbaijan virtually disappeared during Stalin's persecutions, and the Catholic church in Baku was destroyed. On the occasion of the Pope's visit, then President Heider Aliev made available a plot of land in the center of Baku to build a Catholic church.

No One May Use Religion as Tool of Violence, Says Pope

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Build the Kingdom of Christ with resolve and prayers, Pope says ( 20/11/04)
Pope tells Asian Churches to bear witness to the faith ( 19/11/04)
No to religion used as an instrument of death, the Pope says ( 18/11/04)
Pope: Efforts to destroy family wounds society (Indianapolis Star 21/11/04)
Papal telegram for death of Cardinal Aramburu (Vatican Information Service 19/11/04)

Pope arrives in Azerbaijan, pleads for religious tolerance and end to violence (CathNews 23/5/02)

22 Nov 2004