02/20/2006, 00.00
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Pope: respect for religions, but insults do not justify violence

Benedict XVI condemns the Mohammad caricatures and asks that the exercise of religious freedom be allowed everywhere in conditions of reciprocity.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Religions have the right to be respected, but violent reactions to insults are not acceptable, nor are the actions of those who stir up violence "for purposes foreign to religion."  Benedict XVI spoke today for the first time, even if he did not mention them directly, on the question of the Mohammad caricatures, which was also the occasion for reaffirming the need for "the exercise of freely-chosen religion to be effectively assured to everyone in a reciprocal manner in all societies."

The Pope seized the opportunity of the audience with Morocco's new Ambassador to the Holy See, Ali Achour, who presented his letters of credentials today, to reinforce the principle of respect which is due to the religious convictions of every person.  Replying to the Ambassador who had affirmed his country's contribution to dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions, Benedict XVI said that "the Catholic Church remains convinced that, to set favourable conditions for peace and understanding among populations and persons, it is necessary and urgent that religions and their symbols be respected and that believers not be subjected to provocations that are hurtful to their thoughts and their religious sentiments.  But intolerance and violence," he added, "can never be justified as a reply to insults, because such replies are incompatible with the sacred principles of religions; it is for this reason that the actions of those who deliberately take advantage of injured religious sentiment to stir up violent acts can only be deplored, all the more insofar as this happens for purposes foreign to religion.  For believers, as for all men of good will," he concluded, "the only way that can lead to peace and to brotherhood is that of respect for the religions convictions and practices of others, so that the exercise of freely-chosen religion is effectively assured to all in a reciprocal manner in all societies."

The Pope, who praised Morocco's tradition of tolerance, also expressed the hope that the ever closer cooperation between countries that border the Mediterranean Sea "must allow, with determination and perseverance, for the tackling not only of questions concerning security and peace in the region, but also the problem of the development of societies and persons, in a renewed awareness of the duty of solidarity and justice."

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