At a concert for religious peace in the Vatican on Saturday, he urged Christians, Jews and Muslims on Saturday to work together to bring an end to what he called never-ending wars in the world.

"Yes, we must find in ourselves the courage of peace," he said at what was called "The Concert for Reconciliation" among believers of the three great monotheistic faiths.

The pontiff was flanked by a leading Rome rabbi and by the city's imam.

"Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot let the earth be afflicted by hate, or allow humanity to be always n a state of upheaval caused by wars without end," he said.

World premiere

Sir Gilbert Levene conducted The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and choruses from Turkey, the United States, Britain and the Pope's native Poland in performances of part of Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony.

The world premiere of "Abraham", a work by contemporary American composer John Harbison, was also performed.

The Old Testament patriarch Abraham is revered as a father of all three religions and the pope urged them to find reconciliation in their common roots.

"The story of relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims is marked by light and shadows, and, unfortunately, has known painful moments. Today, one feels the pressing need for reconciliation among believers in the one God," he said.

Asked forgiveness

The 83-year-old pope has made reconciliation with meers of other religions one of the hallmarks of his papacy, now in its 26th year. He has asked forgiveness in the name of the Catholic Church from Muslims for the Crusades and from Jews for past sins.

"The hope that we express together is that men will be purified of the hate and evil that continuously threaten peace and know how to lend each other a hand which knows no violence and is ready to offer help and comfort to those in need" 

Pope John Paul II

He was the first pope in history to visit a synagogue and a mosque.

"The hope that we express together is that men will be purified of the hate and evil that continuously threaten peace and know how to lend each other a hand which knows no violence and is ready to offer help and comfort to those in need," he said.

The concert in the Vatican's vast Paul VI audience hall was attended by Catholic, Jewish and Muslim dignitaries from around the world, including a chief rabbi of Israel.

"I think the message of this concert is that peace is just too important to leave to politicians," said Rabbi Henry Sobel of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

"True peace is something that will have to come from the hearts of men and women and religions will have a unique role in that," Sobel told Reuters.