In Istanbul Sunday morning, Pope Francis employed some of his strongest language against Islamic extremism to date, condemning jihadist violence against the weak and defenseless as “a profoundly grave sin against God.”
Francis spoke of the “plea” coming from the victims of violent conflicts, and made specific reference to Turkey’s “neighboring countries” that are “scarred by an inhumane and brutal war.”
The Pope also denounced the recent slaughter of Muslims praying in a Mosque in Kano, Nigeria, and called the massacre a “grotesque and senseless attack.” The bombing, which killed more than 100 people, is assumed to be the work of Boko Haram, a Sunni jihadist movement fighting to establish a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.
Francis said that “committing every act of violence – or consenting to such acts – especially when directed against the weakest and defenseless, is a profoundly grave sin against God, since it means showing contempt for the image of God which is in man.”
“The cry of the victims of conflict urges us,” the Pope said to Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, “to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.” Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the Gospel of peace, the Pope asked, “if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us?”
On Friday, the Pope decried “fanaticism and fundamentalism,” telling Turkish authorities that extremism must be combatted with “respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is, the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion.”
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome