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Pope: Don’t equate Islam with violence

Pontiff says fundamentalists exist in almost every religion, subtly criticizes politicians fueling racism and xenophobia

Pope Francis waves during a press conference on the plane after his visit to Krakow for the World Youth Days, on July 31, 2016. (AFP/ POOL / Filippo MONTEFORTE)
Pope Francis waves during a press conference on the plane after his visit to Krakow for the World Youth Days, on July 31, 2016. (AFP/ POOL / Filippo MONTEFORTE)

Pope Francis refused to equate Islam with violence on Sunday, saying Catholics could be just as deadly and warning Europe was pushing its young to terrorism.

“I don’t think it is right to equate Islam with violence,” he told journalists during his return from a trip to Poland.

Francis defended his decision not to name Islam when condemning the brutal jihadist murder of a Catholic priest in France in the latest of a string of recent attacks in Europe claimed by the Islamic State group.

“In almost every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. We have them too,” he said.

“If I have to talk about Islamic violence I have to talk about Christian violence. Every day in the newspapers I see violence in Italy, someone kills his girlfriend, another kills his mother in law, and these are baptized Catholics.”

The pontiff was speaking after Muslims attended Catholic mass in churches around France on Sunday in solidarity and sorrow following the murder of the priest last Tuesday, whose throat was slit at the altar of his church.

In an echo of remarks made during his five-day trip to Poland for a Catholic youth festival, where the pope took a silent took of Auschwitz and met with Holocaust survivors, Francis said religion was not the driving force behind the violence.

“You can kill with the tongue as well as the knife,” he said, in an apparent reference to a rise in populist parties fuelling racism and xenophobia.

He said Europe should look closer to home, saying “terrorism… grows where the God of money is put first” and “where there are no other options”.

“How many of our European young have we left empty of ideals, with no work, so they turn to drugs, to alcohol, and sign up with fundamentalist groups?” he asked.

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