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Pope Meets Religious Leaders, Fellow Germans

After calling for religious unity in his inauguration address, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to Muslims during a meeting with members of other faiths in the Vatican. He spoke of the need for dialogue.

One day after reaching out to other Christians and Jews in a message during his installation ceremony, the pope turned his thoughts to the Muslim community.

Pope Benedict said he was grateful for the presence of members of the Muslim community, and said he was pleased with the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

He assured those present at the meeting that the Roman Catholic Church wants to continue to build bridges of friendship with followers of all religions.

The pope also said that although the world today is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, it longs for peace. He said peace is a duty to which all people must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions.

And he urged religious leaders to make efforts to come together and foster dialogue to build peace based on solid foundations.

Pope Benedict then met with pilgrims from his native Germany. They cheered and clapped as the pope smiled happily, shaking hands with them.

He told them that, even though he has been in Rome for 23 years, his roots are still in the German state of Bavaria.

He said he was looking forward to this summer's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. He also stressed that the church is not old and stationary but young. Pope Benedict prayed.

Pope Benedict also spoke to his fellow Germans about the conclave of cardinals that elected him. He said he did nothing to get himself elected, and even prayed to God that he would be spared. Evidently, he told them, God "did not listen to me this time."

Later Monday, the pope was scheduled to visit the tomb of Saint Paul, the apostle who helped bring Christianity to the regions on both sides of the current Christian-Orthodox divide.