Catholic World News

Assisi III: Terrorism is 'antithesis of religion,' Pope says

October 27, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI led hundreds of participants in an inter-religious pilgrimage for peace on October 27, marking the 25th anniversary of the first such event organized by Blessed John Paul II.

In his remarks to participants, Pope Benedict observed that the original Assisi pilgrimage in 1986 came during a time of acute tensions in the Cold War. Three years later, he observed the Berlin Wall fell and the Communist empire was peacefully dismantled. “For this victory of freedom—which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks,” the Pontiff said. He offered his prayer that the 2011 pilgrimage would bear similar fruit.

Pope Benedict was one of many different religious leaders who addressed the participants in the pilgrimage, before they broke off into groups to pray according to their own religious traditions. As the group gathered, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, welcomed the pilgrims and said: “We come to bear witness to the great power of religion for good, to renew a common commitment to building peace, reconciling those in conflict and bringing man back into harmony with creation.”

Cardinal Turkson’s welcome was followed by remarks from the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople; the secretary-general of the World council of Churches, Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams; Rabbi David Rosen, representing the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; and representatives of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Yoruba faiths. The program also included an address by Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian-born French writer, who was invited by Pope Benedict to represent non-believers seeking to engage in productive dialogue with faith.

Pope Benedict, speaking last, remarked that the world today faces the threat of violence in two main forms. The first is terrorism, which he roundly condemned for its “reckless cruelty” and its exploitation of religious belief. The use of religious faith as an incitement to violence “should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons,” the Pontiff said. “It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction.”

The Holy Father paused in his analysis to acknowledge that at times in history, Christian faith has been used as a justification for violence. “We acknowledge it with great shame,” he said. “But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature.”

The second main source of violence today, the Pope continued, is the attempt to eliminate God from man’s horizon. He remarked that “the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds,” citing the concentration camps as vivid illustrations.

While the totalitarian movements of the 20th century led to inhuman violence, the Pope continued, the materialism of our time produces similar threats. “The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency.” Noting the violence that arises from drug trafficking, he observed that “in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people.”

In response to these threats, the Pope said, people of all faiths were joining in the Assisi pilgrimage to pray for peace and to show their solidarity in that cause. He made a point of welcoming not only the followers of other faiths, but also agnostics who are “seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practiced.” All come to Assisi, he said—citing the motto and theme of the day’s event—as “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace.”

Pope Benedict traveled by train from the Vatican to Assisi on Thursday morning, accompanied by dozens of other participants in the pilgrimage. They joined several hundred people who had begun congregating at the site early in the morning. Rome Reports furnished video footage of the pilgrimage train leaving the little Vatican station.


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Franz10108953 - Oct. 28, 2011 12:26 AM ET USA

    How can the Vatican refer to this carnival of religions as a Pilgrimage? Those who undertake a pilgrimage generally believe the same thing; groups who make a pilgrimage to Fatima for example, generally share a devotion to the Mother of God. Catholics share no beliefs with animists, patheists or agnostics so how can there be a pilgrimage? If I were to organize a trip that included vegetarians and blind persons, I can't call it a hunting trip can I now?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2011 11:10 PM ET USA

    Terrorism might be the antithesis of His Holiness's religion, but not all religions are the same.

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Oct. 27, 2011 9:41 PM ET USA

    By true religion he meant the Catholic religion, the only true religion. Certain other religions are in fact violent but they aren't true. I hope that's what he meant.