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Pope sees arms build-up in Syria as 'grave sin,' decries fundamentalism

September 14, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI revealed that he had never considered postponing his trip to Lebanon, and decried the importation of weapons to Syria as a “grave sin,” during an informal exchange with reporters who accompanied him on his September 14 flight from Rome to Beirut.

Following what has become his usual pattern for foreign travel, the Pope spent some time with reporters during the trip, answering several questions. Vatican Radio supplied a full transcript of the exchange.

“No one ever advised me to cancel this trip,” the Pope said in answer to a question about concerns over rising tensions in the Middle East. He went on to say that he would not have considered cancelling the visit “because I know that as the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity.”

Questioned about the escalating violence in neighboring Syria, the Pope acknowledged that many Christians have fled that country, but pointed out to reporters that Muslims are leaving as well, in the face of increasing insecurity. The Pontiff said that “the most essential help would bee the end of war and violence which causes this exodus.” He decried the importation of weapons into the troubled country as a “grave sin,” reasoning that “without weapons, war could not continue.” The Pope endorsed all reasonable efforts to stop the bloodshed.

Speaking more generally about the connection between violence and religious extremism, the Pope said: “Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion and goes against the meaning of religion which is, instead, an invitation to share God’s peace throughout the world.” All religious leaders should support a “purification of such temptations,” he said, and must renounce violence “which is a falsification like fundamentalism.”

When questioned about the effects of the “Arab Spring” movement, the Pope said: “In itself, the Arab Spring is a positive thing: a desire for greater democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a new Arab identity.” But he warned that the appeal for revolution “risks forgetting one aspect--a fundamental dimension for freedom--which is tolerance of the other.”

In response to a final question about what the Church can do to ease the tensions and suffering in the Middle East, the Pope said: “We need to influence public opinion.” Along with encouraging political leaders to seek peace, he said, Christians should be active in charitable works to help those in material need.


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  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 15, 2012 2:51 PM ET USA

    This is a very old problem with a track record just as old. On the 11th anniversary of 9-11 things do not appear to be much better. At little league football today I overhead a conversation where one person stated: "And I don't know what's going to happen in the Middle East. Things are 'red hot' over there." There is a reference to influencing "public opinion." Not sure how that will work out or how successful it might be. There is no reference to prayer above, but Our Lady suggests it.