Anglican chief echoes call for faiths to renounce all violence

By staff writers
October 22, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans, has endorsed a strong statement against religiously sanctioned violence by Pope Benedict at an inter-faith conference this weekend.

"In a world wounded by conflict, where violence is often committed in God's name, it is vital to repeat that religion should not be a vehicle of hatred," the Pope told an audience of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Zoroastrians at a peace summit.

The 200-strong audience included the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Yona Metzger, Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Mousavi Bojnourdi of Iran, and Bartholemew I, the ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church.

U Uttara, a Burmese monk, and Din Syamsuddin, the president of Indonesia's Muslim Council, were also guests at a three-day conference in Naples to promote peace, organised by the Sant' Egidio community - known for its work on conflict resolution.

"Bad religion is a very powerful tool for bad people to use against each other, because it carries with it some of that absolutism that is rooted in a rather insecure kind of faith," said Dr Williams, responding to the Pope's statement.

"It is all the more important that good religion comes to drive it out, you cannot do it just by secularism," he commented.

The two Christian leaders called upon the world's faiths to offer their "precious resources to build a peaceful humanity".

Pope Benedict was making the first papal trip to Naples for almost 30 years. He took the opportunity to denounce the city's "disgraceful" mafia, the Camorra.

He declared: "The sad phenomenon of violence does not stop with the lamentable number of crimes committed by the Camorra, but also becomes part of the mentality, insinuating itself into social life, both in the centre of the city and in new and faceless suburbs," said the pope. "The risk is that young people fall into it."

Benedict said that "religions must never become vehicles for hatred". He said that the Catholic Church was not just opposed to violence, but to any use of religion as a pretext for violence.

Catholics adhere to a doctrine of 'just war' in limited circumstances, but commentators have observed that the church's official stance has moved closer and closer to systematic nonviolence.

On Sunday the Pope met representatives of Mennonites from around the world. The Mennonite church is one of the historic peace churches (along with Quakers and the Church of the Brethren) whose understanding of the Gospel has led them to outright pacifism as an evangelical commitment.

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