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Pope warns of clash of cultures, pans gay marriage

Pope Benedict warned in a year-end speech on Friday of an impending clash of cultures and religions if humanity continued to shut God out of its life.
/ Source: Reuters

Pope Benedict warned in a year-end speech on Friday of an impending clash of cultures and religions if humanity continued to shut God out of its life.

In his speech to cardinals, the Pope also said Christians should encourage Muslims who are opposed to violence. He reaffirmed the Catholic Church's rule of priestly celibacy and its condemnation of same-sex marriage.

Benedict said 2006, his first full year as pontiff, would be remembered for the "horrors of war near the Holy Land and in general the risk of a clash between cultures and religions" -- a risk he said was still "hovering dangerously" over the world.

A secularised society that based its decisions too much on reason and logic and left no room for faith "is not capable of entering into a true dialogue with religions," he said.

"If it remains closed to questions relating to God, this will end up leading to a clash of cultures."

He said he was happy that his controversial trip to predominantly Muslim Turkey last month had allowed him to "publicly show my respect for the Islamic religion".

Before the trip, Muslims worldwide had criticised the Pope for a speech he made in Germany in September that was seen as implying that Islam had been spread by violence.

He later said his speech had been misinterpreted.

"We Christians feel united with all those who -- precisely because of their religious convictions as Muslims -- are committed against violence and work for a synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom," he said.


Elsewhere in his speech the Pope spoke out against legal recognition for unmarried couples and denounced what he called "ruinous theories" on the rights of gays to marry, which he said stripped men and women of their innate sexual identity.

"I cannot hide my concern about legislation on de facto couples," he said, again weighing into a debate raging in Italy over what legal rights unmarried and gay couples should enjoy.

Tensions have been rising in recent months between the Vatican and left-wing parties in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's ruling coalition, which has pledged to grant some kind of legal recognition to unmarried couples.

"This tacitly accredits those ruinous theories that strip all relevance from the masculinity and femininity of the human being as though it were a purely biological issue," the Pope said.

Theories "according to which man should be able to decide autonomously what he is and what he isn't" end up with mankind destroying its own identity, he said.

Two parliamentarians in the ruling coalition outraged fellow lawmakers this week by placing four dolls representing homosexual couples near the baby Jesus in the official nativity scene in Italy's parliament.

They said their gesture was to promote legal recognition for unmarried couples and the legalisation of gay marriage. (Additional reporting by Gavin Jones)