Subj: Pope Praises Islam, Says Terror Profanes God
Date: 9/24/01 12:12:53 PM Pacific Daylight Time

September 24 10:12 AM ET

Pope Praises Islam, Says Terror Profanes God

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - Pope John Paul said Monday
that terrorism profanes God and disfigures man and stressed
that the Catholic Church has great respect for "authentic

"I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church's respect for Islam,
for authentic Islam, the Islam that prays, that is concerned
for those in need," he told a meeting of Kazakh

"Recalling the errors of the past, including the most recent
past, all believers ought to unite their efforts to ensure
that God is never made the hostage of human ambitions," he

"Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God
and disfigure the true image of man," he said.

The Pope was speaking in mostly Muslim Kazakhstan, a Central
Asian republic whose southern border is only 300 km (200
miles) from Afghanistan, base of the militant Osama bin
Laden, who Washington holds responsible for the September 11
suicide airliner attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade

His visit to the Central Asian republic so far has been
dominated by his concerns that the world may slide into war
following the attacks in the United States.

Sunday he issued a passionate appeal for peace. That was
followed, only hours later, by Kazakhstan President
Nursultan Nazarbayev's announcement that his country was
ready to join a coalition of states to fight terrorism.

Earlier, the Pope, speaking in a land that was once home to
Stalinist gulags, paid moving tribute to the millions of
people who suffered ridicule, imprisonment and death for
their religious faith during the Soviet era.

The 81-year-old Pontiff, who lived through the Nazi
occupation and later communist domination of his native
Poland, made his tribute at a morning mass on the
penultimate day of his trip to Kazakhstan.


The Pope, who moves on to Armenia Tuesday, has been holding
up relatively well, although at times he appears to be
extremely tired.

Speaking in Astana's Roman Catholic cathedral, which is
smaller than most neighborhood parish churches in Italy, the
Pope took his mind off the possibility of war for a moment
and turned his attention to the grim past of the Soviet era.

"My thoughts turn at this time to your communities, once
scattered and sorely tried. In heart and in spirit I relive
the unspeakable trials of all those who suffered not only
physical exile and imprisonment, but public ridicule and
violence because they chose not to renounce their faith," he
said in his sermon.

Kazakhstan's some 180,000 Roman Catholics, which could
squeeze into St. Peter's Square and its environs, enjoy good
relations with the Muslim community of some eight million.

Still, the Pope said the tiny community had its work cut out
for it and compared its task to the rebuilding of the temple
in ancient Jerusalem.

"After the communist oppression, you too -- not unlike
exiles -- once more return to proclaim together your common
faith. Today, 10 years after regaining your freedom you
remember the struggles of the past... I have long looked
forward to today's meeting in order to share your joy," he

Kazakhstan was home to 16 of the many camps that made up the
Gulag Archipelago, immortalized by Russian author Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn in his 1973 book of the same name.

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