Pope Fracis says interfaith dialogue is a necessity not a luxury on first visit to Africa

(Photo: REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis gives the thumb up as he leads the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 20, 2014

Pope Francis has deplored violence perpetrated in the name of God and warned against the risk of young people being radicalized in the name of religion while addressing "barbarous" extremist attacks in the name of Islam.

The Pope was speaking on his first day of his visit to Africa while meeting with religious leaders at the Vatican's embassy in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

He spoke about the importance of interfaith relationships saying, "To be honest, this relationship is challenging; it makes demands of us.

"Yet ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.

While Francis did not make explicit reference to the attacks in Paris or Beirut by Islamic State terrorists, he said God's "name must never be used to justify hatred and violence."

"How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect," he told those assembled at the Vatican embassy.

The pontiff noted that, "By caring for the spiritual growth of our communities, by forming minds and hearts in the truths and values taught by our religious traditions, we become a blessing to the communities in which our people live.

"In democratic and pluralistic societies like Kenya, cooperation between religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good."

The Argentine-born Pope plans to address the question of religiously inspired violence again on Nov. 29, when he visits conflict-ridden Central African Republic, plagued by fighting between Christians and Muslims, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the CAR's capital of Bangui, Francis is scheduled to meet Christian and Muslim leaders involved in reconciliation efforts and to visit a refugee camp populated by Christians as well as a mosque in the city's Muslim neighborhood.

It is Francis' first visit to Africa and he will also stop in Uganda on Nov. 27.

The chairman of Kenya's supreme council of Muslims, Professor Abdulghafur H.S. El-Busaidy, greeted Pope Francis but did not specifically refer to terrorism. He said all religious leaders must reject "injustice, hatred, greed, malice, deceitfulness, blackmail, treachery, deaths and destruction."

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