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Pope Benedict XVI yesterday refused to declare Islam “a religion of peace.”

Asked by reporters whether Islam could be considered a religion of peace shortly before entering a meeting with priests and deacons of Valle d’Aosta in northwest Italy where he is spending a brief holiday, the pontiff refused to reply positively.

“I would not like to use big words to apply generic labels,” he replied. “It certainly contains elements that can favor peace, it also has other elements: We must always seek the best elements.”

The day before, he asked God to stop the terrorists.

“Even these days of serenity and repose have been disrupted by the tragic news of the execrable terrorist attacks which have brought death, destruction and suffering to various countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Great Britain,” he said. “As we entrust to divine goodness the dead and injured and their loved ones, victims of gestures that offend both God and man, we call on the Almighty to block the murderous hand of those who, driven by fanaticism and hatred, committed these acts, and we ask that He convert their hearts to thoughts of reconciliation and peace.”

He asked Muslims to embrace peace.

“Renounce the way of violence which causes so much suffering to civilian populations, and instead to embrace the way of peace,” he said in a statement issued through Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, in response to terrorist attacks at the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt.

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