(Pope Benedict XVI (C), Wande Abimbola (R) of Nigeria, Rabbi David Rosen (2nd R), Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodox Church Bartolomeo I attend the "Prayer for Peace," a inter-religious meeting in the Italian pilgrimage town of Assisi October 27, 2011. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)

Pope Benedict, leading a global inter-religious meeting, has acknowledged “with great shame” that Christianity had used force in its long history but said violence in God’s name had no place in the world today. Benedict spoke as he hosted some 300 religious leaders from around the world – including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Shintoists and Buddhists – in an inter-faith prayer gathering for peace in the city of St Francis.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith,” he said in his address to the delegations in an Assisi basilica on Thursday.  “We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature,” he said.

It was one of the few times that a pope has apologised for events such as the Crusades or the use of force to spread the faith in the New World. The late Pope John Paul apologised in 2000 for Christianity’s historical failures.

Benedict, who in his address condemned terrorism, said history had also shown that the denial of God could bring about “a degree of violence that knows no bounds”. He said the concentration camps of World War Two revealed “with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence”.