Pope calls on religious leaders to condemn acts of terrorism


As the Year of Mercy drew to a close, Pope Francis met with around 200 representatives of different religions at the Vatican including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims who all work in fields related to charity and mercy. The Pope expressed his sadness at the many attacks on religious freedom and told the religious leaders that acts of violence and terrorism must be very clearly condemned:

 “Sadly, not a day passes that we do not hear of acts of violence, conflict, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, killings and destruction,” Pope Francis said, adding that “it is horrible that at times, to justify such barbarism, the name of a religion or the name of God himself is invoked.”

“May there be clear condemnation of these iniquitous attitudes that profane the name of God and sully the religious quest of mankind.”

Instead, Francis  said love and mercy, which are at the heart of true religion, must be promoted while “the aimless paths of disagreement and closed-mindedness” should be rejected and replaced with a “peaceful encounter” among believers. However, he emphasised that mercy can’t be proclaimed through words alone, but must be demonstrated in action and above all, “by a truly merciful way of life marked by disinterested love, fraternal service and sincere sharing.”

“The Church increasingly desires to adopt this way of life,” he said. “The religions are likewise called to this way of life, in order to be, particularly in our own day, messengers of peace and builders of communion.”

Emphasizing that compassion is the “authentic spirit” of religion, the Pope said we must “draw near to all those living in situations that call for our concern, such as sickness, disability, poverty, injustice and the aftermath of conflicts and migrations.” He added “This is a summons rising from the heart of every genuine religious tradition.”

Francis warned against the error of “religious syncretism”, which blends different religions together. Instead he advocated the promotion of unity through dialogue and encounter as a way to combat division and intolerance around the world. “This is pleasing to God and constitutes an urgent task, responding not only to today’s needs but above all to the summons to love which is the soul of all authentic religion,” he said.

Pope Francis stated that to become “fully reconciled” by the mercy of God we must forgive others, because we receive God’s forgiveness in order to share it. “Forgiveness is surely the greatest gift we can give to others, because it is the most costly,” he explained, yet “it is what makes us most like God.”

Francis concluded by urging those present to reject disagreement and closemindedness, praying that religions may never again, “because of the conduct of some of their followers,” convey a “distorted message, out of tune with that of mercy.”

“May there instead be fostered everywhere the peaceful encounter of believers and genuine religious freedom,” he said. “Here, our responsibility before God, humanity and the future is great; it calls for unremitting effort, without dissimulation.”

ACN Malta