On Monday, Pope Francis condemned “perverted forms of religion” leading to the “tragic massacre” in Paris, where 17 people were killed by Jihadists in 3 separate attacks, as well as the fundamentalism which turns God into “merely an ideological pretext”. There is a “culture of rejection towards people who are different, which leads to violence and death. We find a sad example of this in (…) the tragic massacre which took place in Paris. Human beings sometimes even become slaves (…) to perverted forms of religion,” stated the pope in a speech during his annual New Year’s greetings ceremony in front of the diplomatic corps at the Vatican.
“Terrorism based on fundamentalism in Syria and Iraq is a consequence of the culture of rejection in the face of God. It rejects God himself, making him a mere ideological pretext,” he decried, whilst stressing, at a time when violence threatens Christians in that part of the world, that “a Middle East without Christians would be a Middle East scarred and crippled.”
Within this very dark picture of a world where “a real global war is taking place little by little,” the Argentine pontiff cited the rapprochement between the United Stated and Cuba as a positive example of “a dialogue which can build bridges.”
Jorge Bergoglio welcomed this rapprochement, in which the Vatican played a vital role as mediator: “This is an example which warms my heart, an example of how dialogue can truly erect and build bridges, following the recent decision by the United States and Cuba to end their estrangement after over half a century.”
At the same time he encouraged Columbia and Venezuela to “instigate a friendship,” but also told Iran and major world powers to come to an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme, and told the United States to “permanently close” Guantanamo Bay.
The pope issued a powerful appeal against the common practice of rape in war zones, a “dreadful crime”: “rape is a very serious attack on women’s dignity (…) which leaves irreversible trauma and social consequences.”
He also called for thoughtfulness when dealing with “the social rejects of our times,” decrying the way “the sick, the isolated and the marginalised” are often treated, including “the victims of this new and awful epidemic, Ebola.”