Pope tells Muslims religion is force for unity

AMMAN (AFP/Reuters) – Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday urged inter-faith reconciliation on the second day of a Holy Land tour but disappointed Muslim clerics by failing to offer a new apology for remarks seen as targeting Islam.

The Pope visited a mosque on Saturday in another attempt to mend fences with Islam after a 2006 speech caused offence.

The pontiff in a keynote address to Muslim leaders in Amman’s huge Al-Hussein Mosque bemoaned “ideological manipulation of religion” and urged Muslims and Christians to unite as “worshippers of God.”

Religion should be a force for unity not division, he said.

“Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied,” the Pope told his audience.

Among his audience in Amman’s huge Al-Hussein Mosque was Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, head of the Chaldean Church, Iraq’s largest Christian denomination, who made the trip to the Jordanian capital for the papal visit.

“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?”

Some clerics expressed disappointment however that the pontiff in his wide-ranging speech had made no new apology for a 2006 address in which he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW).

he pontiff apologised at the time for the “unfortunate misunderstanding” but ahead of his visit to Jordan the kingdom’s main Opposition party, the Islamic Action Front, said the Pope was not welcome unless he again apologised.

“What the Pope said was not an apology,” said Hammam Said, the overall leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and University of Jordan professor.

Other Muslim leaders echoed his comments. “We wanted him to clearly apologise,” Sheikh Yusef Abu Hussein, mufti of the southern city of Karak, told AFP after the pope’s address.