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Pope pleads for religions to forge harmonious society

Sapa-AFP

During a visit to Lebanon the Pope has urged the Middle East's Christians and Muslims to forge a harmonious society and reject vengeance.

Pope Benedict XVI, waves to the faithful from the popemobile as he is escorted by bodyguards upon his arrival at the Lebanese presidential palace, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon. (Hussein Malla, AP)

Pope Benedict XVI said on Saturday that mankind should reject vengeance and instead pardon the offences of others, as he urged the Middle East's Christians and Muslims to forge a harmonious society.

Those who desire to live in peace must have a change of heart, and that involves "rejecting revenge, acknowledging one’s faults, accepting apologies without demanding them and, not least, forgiveness," he said.

"Only forgiveness, given and received, can lay lasting foundations for reconciliation and universal peace," he added in an address on the second day of his three-day visit to Lebanon.

The pontiff issued his call in a speech to Lebanon's political and religious leaders as well as the diplomatic corps after meeting with them at the presidential palace on the second day of his three-day visit to Lebanon.

His address focused on the universal yearning of humanity for peace and how that can only come about through community, comprised of individual persons, whose aspirations and rights to a fulfilling life must be respected.

Lebanon is a multi-faith country in which Muslims make up about 65% of the population and Christians the balance. The pope came to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to it and to the wider Middle East, which have been torn apart by violence, often sectarian, over the years.

"Why did God choose these lands? Why is their life so turbulent," he asked.

"God chose these lands, I think, to be an example, to bear witness before the world that every man and woman has the possibility of concretely realising his or her longing for peace and reconciliation. This aspiration is part of God's eternal plan and he has impressed it deep within the human heart."

Pluralistic society
The pope said the conditions for building and consolidating peace must be grounded in the dignity of man, which he said is "is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator."

Poverty, unemployment, corruption, addiction, exploitation and terrorism "not only cause unacceptable suffering to their victims but also a great impoverishment of human potential. We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset, which would subordinate 'being' to 'having'."

Without pointing fingers, he said "some ideologies undermine the foundations of society. We need to be conscious of these attacks on our efforts to build harmonious coexistence."

To that end, cultural, social and religious differences should lead to a new kind of fraternity "wherein what rightly unites us is a shared sense of the greatness of each person and the gift which others are to themselves, to those around them and to all humanity."

"Verbal and physical violence must be rejected, for these are always an assault on human dignity, both of the perpetrator and the victim."

He noted that Christians and Muslims have lived side by side in the Middle East for centuries and that there is room for a pluralistic society.

"It is not uncommon to see the two religions within the same family. If this is possible within the same family, why should it not be possible at the level of the whole of society?

"The particular character of the Middle East consists in the centuries-old mix of diverse elements. Admittedly, they have fought one another, sadly that is also true. A pluralistic society can only exist on the basis of mutual respect, the desire to know the other and continuous dialogue."

Central to that, the freedom "to profess and practise one’s religion without danger to life and liberty must be possible to everyone. The loss or attenuation of this freedom deprives the person of his or her sacred right to a spiritually integrated life." – Sapa-AFP.

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