Pope Francis pleads with all religions to work against violence in God's name

(Photo: REUTERS / Andrew Medichini)Pope Francis (L) makes his speech during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican January 13, 2014.

Pope Francis has called on people of every religious tradition to join in condemning the misuse of God's name to justify acts of violence through "homicidal madness" calling on the international community to work for peace.

"Peace," he said, is a gift, a challenge and a commitment," that each of us and all together are called to receive, to answer, and embrace with care and dedication."

The Pope was speaking Jan. 9 in the Apostolic Palace to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See during his traditional exchange of New Year's greetings with the diplomats.

In Geneva on Jan. 8, the general secertary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, had denounced Middle East violence and urged strengthened peace efforts.

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As three cities in the Middle East suffered attacks on the same day, the WCC leader condemned any act of terror, denouncing the violence, and mourning the loss of life, extending prayers for the victims and their families.

"We must join together, not just to condemn these actions but to strengthen our pursuit of just peace, and our resolve not to allow extremist violence to separate us from each other," said Tveit.

"We must join together, not just to condemn these actions but to strengthen our pursuit of just peace, and our resolve not to allow extremist violence to separate us from each other," said Tveit.

'ONE CAN NEVER KILL IN GOD'S NAME'

In his speech the following day Francis said, "One can never kill in God's name," adding that the world is, "dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God's name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power."

The pontiff named countries hit by "fundamentalist-inspired terrorism" in the past year: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey.

Explaining reasons for the violence, the Pope said, "Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty."

He said, "It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders."

Security and peace were the twin focal points of Francis' address, which is often described as his "state of the world" address.

"In today's climate of general apprehension for the present, and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future, I feel it is important to speak a word of hope, which can also indicate a path on which to embark," the Pope said.

"These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travelers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the New Year, as in Istanbul," he noted.

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