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Pope Condemns 'Ideological Manipulation of Religion'


On the second day of his week-long trip to the Middle East, Pope Benedict has condemned "the ideological manipulation of religion" and called for inter-faith dialogue.

Speaking to Muslim leaders and other dignitaries Saturday at the Hussein bin Talal mosque in Amman, Jordan, the pontiff said religion should be a force for good, not for division.

Pope Benedict is using his Middle Eastern tour to reach out to Muslims and Jews, both of whom have at times had strained relations with him since he became pontiff in 2005.

Earlier Saturday, the Roman Catholic Church leader called for mutual respect and cooperation between Christians and Jews.

He made those remarks on Mount Nebo in Jordan, a wind-swept summit overlooking the Jordan River valley where the Bible says Moses saw the Promised Land before he died.

The pope, whose trip to the Middle East is being billed as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, spoke of what he called "the inseparable bond between the [Catholic] Church and the Jewish people."

Earlier this year, the pontiff angered many Jews by reinstating an ultraconservative bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Members of Jordan's conservative Muslim Brotherhood are boycotting the pope's visit, still angry over the pope's 2006 quotation of a centuries-old criticism of Islam. Later that year, he visited a mosque in Turkey, a gesture that some say helped calm the outcry over his remarks.

His trip to Jordan's largest mosque Saturday was his second visit to a Muslim house of worship since becoming pope.

Upon arriving in Amman Friday, Pope Benedict expressed his "deep respect" for Islam.

The pope will celebrate Mass at a sports stadium in Amman Sunday. Catholics make up less than two percent of Jordan's mainly-Muslim population.

His Middle East tour also includes stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In Jerusalem, the pontiff will visit Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and places holy to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. He will also go to Bethlehem in the West Bank and Nazareth in northern Israel.

Israel says it will deploy some 80,000 security personnel during Pope Benedict's visit.

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