Pope Francis came out Monday and condemned radical Islamist attacks as “homicidal madness” and urged political authorities to seek peace not only for their own citizens, but for the world.
In remarks to the Vatican diplomatic corps, Francis said, “Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence,” adding:
I think particularly of the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey. These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travelers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.
“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power,” he continued.
Francis appealed to “all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”
“Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty,” he said. “It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders.”
Francis said religious authorities are obliged to teach “love of neighbor,” while political authorities should safeguard the right to religious freedom and to recognize “religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society.”
The pope urged political leaders to prevent conditions that can serve as “fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism,” through “social policies aimed at combating poverty,” policies that reflect “the importance of the family” and “a major investment in the areas of education and culture.”
Francis urged leaders to work for peace not just in war-torn parts of the world, but also in Europe, which he said is “experiencing a decisive moment in its history" as it grapples with terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis and as it comes to terms with Britain's departure from the European Union.
Citing Europe’s reunification following World War II, Francis said the continent is "called to rediscover its proper identity” as “a unique opportunity for stability, peace and solidarity between peoples.”
Francis concluded that peace is “a gift, a challenge and a commitment:”
This, then, is my prayerful hope for the year just begun: that our countries and their peoples may find increased opportunities to work together in building true peace. For its part, the Holy See, and the Secretariat of State in particular, will always be ready to cooperate with those committed to ending current conflicts and to offer support and hope to all who suffer.