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Pope warns against manipulating religion

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with Jordan’s Prince Ghazi Bin Talal  in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with Jordan’s Prince Ghazi Bin Talal in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jeffrey Fleishman Los Angeles Times

AMMAN, Jordan – Pope Benedict XVI called on Christians and Muslims on Saturday to serve humanity with the “light of God’s truth” while warning that extremists in nations such as Iraq were exploiting religious differences for political and violent agendas.

“Tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied,” said the pontiff, whose three-day pilgrimage to Jordan is an attempt to mend relations with the Muslim world.

“However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?”

The speech before Catholic priests, Muslim clerics and Orthodox bishops at Al Hussein bin Talal mosque in Amman was brief. But the copper-domed mosque offered a symbolic setting for the 82-year-old pope to dampen criticism of his comments in 2006 that characterized Islam as a violent religion. Benedict has said he regretted the outrage he caused and made an effort at reconciliation two months later when he prayed silently with imams in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

“The pope’s visit to the Al Hussein mosque is a message to the Muslim world reflecting his respect for Islam,” said Abdul Nasser Abu-Batal, head of the Islamic World University in Amman.

He added that Benedict’s visit is “the opening of a new page with the current pope.”

The pope, whose white vestments were bright against the black robes of orthodox bishops and the checkered kaffiyehs of imams, told his audience that Muslims and Christians should be partners in the “noble purpose of serving mankind” to protect society against the “excess of the unbridled ego.”

Benedict expressed concern about what he sees as the discrimination that Christianity and other faiths face in Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

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