Commenting on last week’s horrific execution of a priest by two ISIS-affiliated terrorists in France, Pope Francis said that it is wrong to associate the religion of Islam with violence.
“I think it is not right to identity Islam with violence,” he told reporters, addressing media aboard a plane taking him back to Rome following a five-day trip to Poland. “This is not right and this is not true.”
The comment was made in response to a question about a terror attack which took place in a church in northern France last week. Two Muslim men, armed with knives, burst into the church during mass and slit the priest’s throat. The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
However, the Pontiff cautioned against associating Islam with violence, reminding the press that
“in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group.”
“We have them,” he added, referring to Catholicism. “I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics.”
He did not differentiate between extremist religious violence and personal vendettas.
“If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent,” Pope Francis said.
Instead, he opined, terrorism is born of worshipping money in a capitalist society.
“I know it dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the center of the world economy,” said the leader of the Catholic church.
“That is the first form of terrorism. That is a basic terrorism against all humanity. Let’s talk about that.”
Poverty and moral emptiness leads to terrorism, he said, rather than religion.
“I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in ISIS.”
The pope has been consistently defensive of Islam and Muslims, meeting with top Arab leaders and imams, advocating for the Muslim refugees flooding Europe, and often drawing parallels between Islam and Christianity, as he did on Sunday.
In May, Pope Francis said that Islam and Christianity share the “same idea of conquest” and obliquely blamed Western thinking and interference in the Middle East for the rise of Islamic extremism.