In the Press: “I Do Not Believe It is Right to Identify Islam with Violence” - Pope Francis
Speaking to journalists recently, Pope Francis stated his views clearly regarding the dangers of identifying any religion with the violent acts of a small group of fundamentalists. “I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence,” the Pope told journalists during the July 31 papal flight to Rome following his apostolic journey to Poland. “This is not right and it is not true.”
The Pope spoke in moving terms of lived experiences of interreligious dialogue, including his own exchanges with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, one of the foremost Islamic centres of learning in the world. He also mentioned the inspiring example of an Imam who joined him in the Popemobile during his visit to the Central African Republic.
The Catholic News Agency provided the full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press briefing on 31 July 2016 here. In the following excerpt of the transcript, Antoine Marie Izoarde, i.Media, asks His Holiness Pope Francis about the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel:
Antoine Marie Izoarde: (…) why do you, when you speak of these violent events, always speak of terrorists, but never of Islam, never use the word Islam? And then, aside from prayer and dialogue, which are obviously essential, what concrete initiatives can you advise or suggest in order to counteract Islamic violence? Thank you, Holiness.
Pope Francis: I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything.
There are violent persons of this religion… this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language -- the Apostle James says this, not me -- and even with a knife, no?
I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think . . . They seek peace, encounter . . . (…) When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile… We can coexist well…
But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask… there is a question… How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work… they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups. One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent . . . because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things… But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS… but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.
See a video of the press briefing and read more here.