Byline: ANNA DOLGOV Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS -- The Vatican's foreign minister said that misunderstanding between cultures is breeding a "new barbarism" of violent extremists, and expressed hope that reason and dialogue would stop fundamentalists who use their faith as a pretext for attacks.
In a speech on the closing day of the UN General Assembly's ministerial meeting, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo also said extremists are far from being devout believers, and undermine the very religion they claim to defend.
"Violent reactions are always a falsification of true religion," Lajolo said in reference to a speech by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam which led to angry and sometimes violent protests by Muslims.
In the Sept. 12 speech at Regensburg University in his native Germany, Benedict quoted words attributed to a 14th century Byzantine emperor: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
In response, Muslims took to the streets in Indonesia, Turkey, Syria and other countries; churches were attacked in the West Bank; an effigy of the pope was burned in Iraq; and a nun was shot dead in Somalia in an attack believed to be linked to the pope's address in Germany.
Lajolo reiterated the Vatican's view that Benedict's remarks were misinterpreted. He said the pope has sought only to promote rational dialogue and understanding _ which he considers the opposite of the narrow views and fundamentalism that give rise to violence.
Benedict has expressed regret for offending Muslims by his remarks and said they did not reflect his personal views, but he has not offered a complete apology as some had sought.
Lajolo suggested that the cause of the anger over the Pope's remarks may also lie in the lack of understanding between religions and a schism between reason and faith.
"As the Pope affirmed, were reason to turn a deaf ear to the divine and relegate religion to the ambit of subcultures, it would automatically provoke violent reactions," Lajolo, who also serves as president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, told the assembly.
"It falls to all interested parties _ to civil society as well as to states _ to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty," he said. …