Pope Francis says world is at ‘war’ but it’s not about religion

The pope has championed interfaith reconciliation and the cause of refugees seeking safe haven in Europe. 

Agencja Gazeta/Reuters
Pope Francis greets the faithful as he arrives at the Jasna Gora shrine in Czestochowa, Poland in July.

The killing of an 86-year-old priest by two ISIS-inspired men in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France was the latest casualty in a world “at war," said Pope Francis on Wednesday. But the war, he added, is not between religions.

"The world is at war because it has lost the peace," he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "There is war for money. There is war for natural resources. There is war for the domination of peoples.”

“Some might think I am speaking of religious war. No. All religions want peace. It is other people who want war.”

The pope’s initial comments came aboard the papal plane headed to Krakow, Poland. Speaking before followers later in the day, he called on Poland to welcome refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, urging “solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety," according to the Guardian. Poland’s government has refused to accept any refugees, The Independent reported, citing the lack of any “mechanism that would ensure safety.”

The pope has made the cause of refugees a central one in his papacy. In April, Francis brought three Syrian Muslim families from the Greek port of Lesbos to Italy, where they receive support from the Sant'Egidio Community.

Francis held a ceremony in the port of Lesbos to thank the Greek people for their generosity toward the refugees, saying he understood the concerns inside much of Europe about the large numbers of migrants. But he added, according to the Associated Press, that refugees deserve to have their basic human rights met as human beings "who have faces, names and individual stories."

The pope has also tried to reconcile Christians with Muslims in parts of the world where religious conflicts have broken out. The Africa Monitor wrote that Francis’ visit to the Central African Republic in November 2015 had drawn attention to violence between Muslims and Christians that displaced tens of thousands in preceding years.

“By his very presence, the pope spotlighted the need for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims,” the bloggers noted. 

On Thursday, French police said they had identified the second of the two gunman from the church attack as 19-year-old Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean, from a town in eastern France. Mr. Petitjean became known to intelligence services in late June after Turkish officials tracked him and alerted France that he was headed to Syria, according to CBS, although he returned to France before achieving his goal.

An anti-terrorism unit had distributed a photo of Mr. Petitjean to police on July 22, warning of the possibility that an attack might be forthcoming.

On Wednesday, a news agency operating in ISIS territory released a video that allegedly shows Mr. Petitjean and his accomplice, 19-year-old Adel Kermiche, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State commander known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The attack was the first to target a European church after a string of attacks targeting mostly secular sites. Afterward, French president Francois Hollande met with leaders from Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish faiths, who called on the public not to be “dragged into the politics of Daesh,” the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State militant group.

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