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Pope in Al-Azhar: Violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression

2017-04-28

With this round of applause Pope Francis was welcomed at the University of Al-Azhar.

This university is the main theological reference point for the Sunni Muslim world, who make up 80 percent of the world's Muslims.

The great imam and rector of the center, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, accompanied the pope in the auditorium. Both gave a speech to the participants of the International Peace Conference taking place in the university. Among the attendees were religious leaders of various denominations and Muslim representatives, as well as students and teachers at the center.

The great imam asked for everyone to stand for a moment of silence as a tribute to all the victims of terrorism.

In his speech, Ahmed Al-Tayeb explained that Islam is not a religion of terrorism and thanked Christian communities for supporting them against those who accuse Muslims of being terrorists. After these words, the pope and the Imam exchanged a hug.

Pope Francis, who the Muslims have called the 'pope of peace,' spoke next.

"Al Salamò Alaikum!"

First, he thanked "his brother," the great Imam, for inviting him. In his speech, the pope strongly condemned the instrumentalization of religions. He also invited religious leaders to defend true religion.

POPE FRANCIS
"Violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression. As religious leaders, we are called, therefore, to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity and is based more on the "absolutizing” of selfishness than on authentic openness to the Absolute."

Pope Francis also condemned the violence that is exercised in the name of God, a perversion that he described as the "idolatrous falsification of God."

POPE FRANCIS
"We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God: Holy is his name, he is the God of peace, God salaam."

The pope was interrupted by applause on several occasions. One example was when he explained that religious leaders not only have to unmask evil, but also promote peace.

POPE FRANCIS
"Our task is that of praying for one another, imploring from God the gift of peace, encountering one another, engaging in dialogue and promoting harmony in the spirit of cooperation and friendship."

Before concluding, Pope Francis also asked for facts and not just good intentions for peace. That is why he once again denounced the trafficking of arms.

POPE FRANCIS
"What is needed today are peacemakers, not constructors of violence. What is needed today are peacemakers, not formenters of conflict; firefighters and not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction."

At the end of his speech, the pope and the Imam shared another hug and all those attending the meeting roared in another round of applause for the Bishop of Rome. 


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