ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE – Pope Francis on Sunday defended his avoidance of the term “Islamic violence” by suggesting the potential for violence lies in every religion, including Catholicism.
“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” Francis said, when asked about why he never speaks of Islamic terrorism or fundamentalism when condemning attacks such as the murder of a French priest last week, who had his throat slit by an Islamic terrorist as he was celebrating Mass.
The pope said that when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law.
“They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics,” Francis said, adding that if he speaks of “Islamic violence,” then he has to speak of “Catholic violence” too.
The pope made his remarks in a wide-ranging news conference with journalists travelling with him back to Rome after a five-day visit to Poland in which Francis presided over World Youth Day, a gathering of Catholic youth from all around the world in Krakow, Poland.
The pope said that in every religion there are violent people, “a small group of fundamentalists,” including in Catholicism.
“When fundamentalism goes as far as murdering … you can murder with your tongue and also with the knife,” he said.
“I believe that it’s not fair to identify Islam with violence. It’s not fair and it’s not true,” he continued, adding that he’s had a long conversation with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Cairo-based Islamic university often described as the Vatican of the Sunni world.
“I know how they think. They look for peace, encounter,” he said.
Francis added that in the case of European youth, many have been left “with no ideals, no work, that end in the hands of drugs and alcohol, and then go over there [didn’t specify] and enlist.”
He did acknowledge that ISIS is an “Islamic state that presents itself as violent.”
“It’s a fundamentalist group that calls itself ISIS, but it can’t be said, it’s not true, and it’s not fair, that Islam is terrorist,” Francis said.
Although clarifying that he didn’t know if he should say it because “it’s dangerous,” the pope then admitted that terrorism grows when “there’s no other option.”
“As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, man and woman, this is the first terrorism,” he said, defining it as a “terrorism at the bases,” against the whole of humanity.