His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople concluded a 3-day inter-religious meeting, October 21-23, 2007, in Naples, Italy with religious leaders from around the world.
The 21st annual peace meeting, entitled, "For a World Without Violence", was organized by the Rome-based catholic community of Saint Egidio and brought together more than 300 Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, and followers of various other religions. Among the notable religious leaders in attendance included: Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury; Methodist Rev. Samuel Kobia (Secretary General of the World Council of Churches); Israel's chief rabbis, Yona Metzger; and Ezzeddine Ibrahim, a cultural adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates.
This inter-faith assembly was first inaugurated by Pope John Paul II, which first met in Assisi in October 1986.
Pope Benedict XVI stopped and embraced the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew before the celebration of a morning Mass, prior to the meeting. That afternoon, a lunch was shared with various religious leaders. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was among the nine guests at the pope's table.
At the formal opening of the inter-religious meeting, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated in his remarks,
"Because violence is an anti-value, it cannot be used to defend values. It is obvious that religious differences easily can be turned into motives for war and hatred.
"If cultural and racial differences are easy to exploit, religious differences are potentially even more dangerous since religions are 'characterized by an absolutism that is difficult to bend' and by a belief that God has given them the truth.
"So even in the field of religions one observes a growing sensitivity (to differences) that sometimes can transform into extremism and violence. War in the name of religion is war against religion.
"The aim of religion must be union with God and with one's neighbors. A religion that lives in fear of what is different is not worthy of the name.
"Violence will cease when each of us cultivates a holy and blessed vendetta against ourselves and our own passions, and focuses instead on serving and loving God.
"The only battle worthy of a religious believer is the battle against his or her own passions and prejudices." *
As a sign of goodwill, a relic of Saint Andrew was presented to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the meeting. Its significance is based on the belief that the larger part of St. Andrew's remains were taken from Constantinople in the early 13th century and brought to Amalfi in southern Italy.
* SOURCE: Catholic News Service