Terrorists' misguided beliefs poison relations between all religions, he said.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
COLOGNE, Germany -- Pope Benedict XVI chose unusually tough language Saturday to tell Muslim leaders they must work harder to combat terrorism and steer youth away from "the darkness of a new barbarism."
On the third day of his first foreign trip as pope, Benedict met with 10 representatives of Germany's growing Muslim community as part of his effort to reach out to other faiths. But he quickly dispensed with the diplomatic niceties and zeroed in on what he called the "cruel fanaticism" of terrorism and the responsibility of religious leaders and educators to prevent it.
"You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith," he told his select audience, who traveled to the Cologne archdiocese to meet the pope. "Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. . . . There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism."
Benedict condemned terrorism as a "perverse and cruel decision" that "shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil society." Terrorists, he said, falsely use religion to poison relations between all religions.
Benedict's meeting with the Muslims was held at the Cologne archdiocese and journalists were barred from attending, in contrast to the pope's high-profile visit to a synagogue the day before that was televised live.
His pointed remarks were made to a community with whom his relations were strained and marked a departure from his exceedingly tolerant predecessor. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope had been quite critical of Islam in a number of his writings.
Before and after becoming pope in April, he voiced alarm at the loss of Christian identity, especially in Europe, sacrificed to a modern multiculturalism that accommodates, among other diversities, Islam.
Benedict has been careful, however, not to link terrorism and Islam in every situation and did not go along with an aide's attempt to condemn the July 7 bombings in London by alleged Islamic militants as an anti-Christian act.