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Tuesday, September 25, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pope expresses church's respect for 'authentic Islam'

ASTANA, Kazakstan — Pope John Paul II said yesterday the Catholic Church respects "authentic Islam," making the distinction between it and the fanaticism some fear will stigmatize the religion.

The pope's statement, made during a four-day visit to the Central Asian country of Kazakstan, echoed his efforts to calm international anger after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The pope has condemned the attacks and supports measures to "bring those responsible to justice," but he has called for restraint.

The Vatican was last confronted with a similar moral judgment 10 years ago when the pope opposed an armed conflict in the Persian Gulf and repeatedly called for negotiations to resolve the crisis over Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

With the grand Mufti of heavily Islamic Kazakstan in the audience at Astana's Congress Hall last night, the pope said, "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.

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

President Nursultan Nazarbayev said John Paul was "probably one of the first leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who preaches conciliation between civilizations and between religious confessions."

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