Pope insists on religious tolerance

In the midst of continuing violence provoked by satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, Pope Benedict XVI criticised those who use the wounded feelings of their faithful to promote violence.

"Religions and their symbols must be respected," the Holy Father said yesterday, but "intolerance and violence never can be justified as a response to the offense, since they are not responses compatible with the sacred principles of religion."

Catholic News Service reports that Benedict made his comments during an audience to welcome Ali Achour as the new ambassador of Morocco to the Vatican.

While no violence has been reported in Morocco, news agencies said at least 15 Christians were killed and more than a dozen Christian churches burned Feb. 18 in Maiduguri, Nigeria, after an anti-cartoon demonstration turned violent. Among those killed was Fr Michael Gajere, a Nigerian priest. A protest in Libya on Friday claimed the lives of at least 11 people.

Pope Benedict told the Moroccan ambassador that while no one has the right to purposefully denigrate the faith of another, "one cannot but deplore the actions of those who deliberately profit from the offense of religious sentiments in order to foment violent actions."

"For believers and for all people of good will, the only path that leads to peace and fraternity is that of respect for the convictions and religious practices of the other," the pope said.

Pope Benedict praised the Moroccan government for its efforts to solidify democracy based on the shared values of "the transcendent dignity of the human person, respect for human rights and the 'common good' as the aim and criteria for the regulation of political life."

Achour told the pope his country would continue its efforts to promote and host dialogues between religions and cultures, to defend human rights and to support negotiations as the best way to resolve political disputes.

"Morocco condemns extremism and terrorism, which are against the principles and values of Islam," he said.

The vast majority of Morocco's 31 million inhabitants are Muslim; the Catholic community numbers about 24,000 people, according to Vatican statistics.

Pope says religions must be respected, but cannot promote violence (Catholic News Service 20/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
ATo the Ambassador of Morocco to the Holy See (20/2/06 - French only)
Catholic Church in Morocco (catholic-hierarchy.org)

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21 Feb 2006