In their meeting this weekend, Pope Francis told Turkish President Erdogan that what is needed now is a worldwide condemnation of Islamic terrorism “from the Muslims themselves.” They need to distance themselves from ISIS and say: “That is not who we are. That is not the Qur’an,” he said.
“How good it would be,” the Pope said, if “all the Islamic leaders–whether political leaders, religious leaders, or academic leaders–would speak clearly and condemn those acts, because this will help the majority of Islamic people to say ‘no,'” he said.
The Pope revealed these details of his conversation with President Erdogan on the plane ride back to Rome Sunday.
The Pope was responding to Erdogan’s criticism of western “Islamophobia,” that tends to lump all Muslims together, proclaiming them guilty by association. Francis said that he sympathized with Muslims who want to disassociate themselves from radical Islamists. “So many Muslims are offended by this,” he said. “I sincerely believe,” he added, “that you can’t say that all Muslims are terrorists.”
The best way for Muslims to address this problem is for them to stand up to the radicals, Francis said. It has to come “from the mouth of its leaders: religious leaders, academic leaders, many intellectuals, and political leaders,” the Pope repeated. “This was my answer” to Erdogan, he said.
The Pope also expressed his outrage toward the way Christians are being treated in the Middle East. “Christianophobia is real!” he said. “We Christians are being expelled from the Middle East. Sometimes, as we have seen in Iraq, in the area of Mosul, they have to go away and leave everything, or pay the fee, which does no good…”
“It’s as if they wished there were no more Christians, and that nothing remained of Christianity” Francis said.
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome