In blunt remarks on Saturday, he told a gathering of Muslim officials in Germany that Muslim leaders had a “great responsibility” in properly educating their younger generations.
“I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism,” Benedict told the Muslim leadership, mainly Turks, in the most extensive remarks on terrorism of his four-month papacy.
“Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction, and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair,” he said.
He did not mention specific attacks or who was responsible, or speak directly about suicide bombings, but it appeared significant that he chose a Muslim audience for his remarks on terrorism.
“Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together,” Benedict said.
The meeting, during the pope’s four-day trip to Germany for the Church’s World Youth Day, was part of Benedict’s outreach to non-Catholics to achieve common positions on social issues and world peace.
There are some 3.5 million Muslims in Germany, one of the highest figures in Western Europe.
The pope cautioned against the
Going into Saturday’s meeting, he had been cautious about making any links between terrorism and Islam, rejecting the idea that the world faced a “clash of civilisations” and reportedly overruling an aide who wanted to brand the 7 July London bombings as anti-Christian.
But in warning on Saturday that the world risked exposure to “the darkness of a new barbarism,” he stressed that Muslim leaders must guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.
“Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation.”
Benedict said that by working together, Catholics and Muslims could “turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress toward world peace.”
The pope spoke of terrorism striking in “various parts of the world” but did not mention any specific attacks.
Benedict has been given a warm
Israel sharply criticised the Vatican last month after Benedict condemned terrorist attacks in Britain, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey but did not mention a bombing in Israel that killed five Israelis.
Benedict also alluded to another of his themes – the need for reciprocity in religious freedom for Christians and other minorities in some Islamic countries.
He did not name any but said “the defence of religious freedom … is a permanent imperative and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilisation”.
Saturday’s meeting was the second test of interfaith relations after a visit to Cologne’s synagogue, where Benedict was warmly received by Jewish officials for his remarks urging better Jewish-Christian relations and warning of rising anti-Semitism.
Reaching out to Jews and Muslims is one of the main themes of his trip, along with his effort to evangelise a Europe that many think is forgetting its Christian heritage.