Dialogika

Pope Francis

Remarks on Refusal to Speak of "Islamic Violence"

 

In-Flight Press Conference from Poland to Rome

 

(Antoine-Marie Izoard)

Holy Father, first of all, I offer good wishes to you, Father Lombardi, and Father Spadaro on the Feast of Saint Ignatius.

My question is a bit more difficult. Catholics are in a state of shock – and not only in France – following the barbaric assassination of Father Jacques Hamel in his church while he was celebrating Holy Mass. Four days ago, on board the flight, you told us once again that all religions want peace. But this holy priest, eighty-six years old, was clearly killed in the name of Islam. So I have two brief questions, Holy Father. When you speak of these violent acts, why do you always speak of terrorists and not of Islam? You never use the word “Islam”. And then, in addition to prayer and dialogue, which are obviously essential, what concrete initiative can you launch or perhaps suggest in order to combat Islamic violence? Thank you, Your Holiness.

(Pope Francis)

I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence because every day when I open the newspapers I see acts of violence, here in Italy: someone kills his girlfriend, someone else his mother-in-law… And these violent people are baptized Catholics! They are violent Catholics… If I spoke about Islamic violence, I would also have to speak about Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent; not all Catholics are violent. It’s like a fruitcake, there’s a little bit of everything, there are violent people in these religions. One thing is true: I believe that in almost all religions there is always a small fundamentalist group. Fundamentalist. We have some ourselves. And when fundamentalism gets to the point of killing – and one can kill with the tongue (these are words of the Apostle James, not mine) as well as with a knife – … I believe that it is not right to identify Islam with violence. It is not right and it is not true. I had a long talk with the Grand Imam at the University of al-Azhar, and I know what they are thinking: they are looking for peace, for encounter. A Nuncio in an African nation told me that in the capital city there is constantly a line of people – a long line! – before the Holy Door for the Jubilee: some go to confession, others pray in the pews. But the majority of them go straight to the altar of Our Lady to pray: these are Muslims who want to participate in the Jubilee. They are our brothers and sisters. When I was in Central Africa I went to see them, and the Imam even came aboard the Popemobile. We can live together in harmony. But there are little fundamentalist groups. But I also ask myself how many young people – how many young people! – have we Europeans left without ideals, without jobs, and then they turn to drugs, alcohol… they turn to these things and they enlist in fundamentalist groups. Yes, we can say that the so-called ISIS is an Islamic state that acknowledges itself as violent, because when they lay their cards on the table, they slit the throats of Egyptians on the Libyan coast and do similar things. But this is a little fundamentalist group called ISIS. But you cannot say – I believe it is false and unjust – that Islam is terrorist.

(Antoine-Marie Izoard)

A concrete initiative on your part to combat terrorism and violence…

(Pope Francis)

Terrorism is everywhere! Think of tribal terrorism in some African countries… Terrorism – I don’t know if I should say it because it’s a bit risky – increases whenever there is no other option, when the global economy is centred on the god of money and not the human person, men and women. This is already a first form of terrorism. You’ve driven out the marvel of creation, man and woman, and put money in their place. This is a basic act of terrorism against all humanity. We should think about it.