Pope Benedict prayed today for God to stop the “murderous hand” of terrorists and again condemned recent attacks in Europe and the Middle East that have been blamed on Islamic extremists.
At the same time, Benedict’s spokesman said the pope was placing immense importance on a meeting he is scheduled to have in Cologne, Germany, next month with members of Germany’s Muslim community.
The pope, who is travelling to Cologne for the church’s World Youth Day, added the meeting with Muslims into his itinerary after also deciding to visit Cologne’s synagogue, clearly trying to make a statement about the need for dialogue among religions during his first foreign trip.
“It’s a very strong signal, that at the beginning of his pontificate, there is this desire for a dialogue among the three great monotheistic religions that are inspired by, and have reference to Abraham,” spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
Benedict referred to the recent “abhorrent terrorist attacks” in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq during his noon blessing delivered for the second Sunday in a row from his Alpine retreat in Italy’s north western Valle d’Aosta region, where he is on holiday.
“While we grant to divine goodness the dead, the wounded and their dear ones - victims of such acts that offend God and man – we invoke the Almighty to stop the murderous hand of those who, driven by fanaticism and hatred, commit such acts and ask him to convert their hearts and minds to reconciliation and peace,” Benedict said.
Benedict also returned to a topic he has been emphasising in his three months as pope: the need for Europeans to reaffirm the Christian roots of the continent.
He quoted Pope John Paul II as urging Europeans to ”’return to yourselves. Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Revive those authentic values that made your history glorious and made your presence among other continents blessed.”’
Benedict said he wanted to send the same message to Europe’s youth during the World Youth Day ceremonies, which he will attend next month.
“Let us pray that the new generations, borrowing from Christ’s vital sap, know that they are part of a European society that is excited by a renewed humanism in which faith and reason cooperate in a fertile dialogue for the promotion of the man and the construction of an authentic peace,” he said.
Benedict has been in Les Combes since July 11 and is due to remain until July 28, when he will move to the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo in the Alban hills south of Rome.