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Pope Francis: to Diplomatic Corps, “fundamentalist terrorism is homicidal madness”, need for “joint contribution of political and religious leaders”

“Fundamentalist-inspired terrorism” is “a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power”. Pope Francis said this in his address to the Diplomatic Corps in which he observed, once again, that “even today religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others”, could be used “as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence”. The example given is that of “fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey”. “These are vile acts – Pope Francis denounced – that use children to kill, as in Nigeria; or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travellers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul”. Hence the Pope appealed to “all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name”. “Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and is often linked to significant social poverty”, the Pope explained. “It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders”. According to Pope Francis, the former “are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour” while the latter “are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life”. Political leaders are also “responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism” through the implementation of “suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty”, which “cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture”. In this regard, Pope Francis welcomed the Council of Europe’s initiative on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, which in the past year “discussed the role of education in preventing radicalization leading to terrorism and extremist violence”.

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