In an impassioned address Friday, Pope Francis denied the existence of Islamic terrorism, while simultaneously asserting that “the ecological crisis is real.”
“Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist,” Francis said in his speech to a world meeting of populist movements.
What he apparently meant is that not all Christians are terrorists and not all Muslims are terrorists—a fact evident to all—yet his words also seemed to suggest that no specifically Islamic form of terrorism exists in the world, an assertion that stands in stark contradiction to established fact.
“No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent,” Francis said, while also suggesting—as he has on other occasions—that terrorism is primarily a result of economic inequalities rather than religious beliefs. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”
The Pope also reiterated his conviction that all religions promote peace and that the danger of violent radicalization exists equally in all religions.
While denying the existence of Islamic terrorism, Francis also seemed to condemn the denial of global warming, asserting that “the ecological crisis is real.”
We know “what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature,” the Pope said. “Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.”
Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Monday that the Holy See is concerned over growing populist and nationalist movements, both in Europe and in the United States.
Pope Francis has offered his unequivocal support to grassroots organisers and activists who are fighting for social justice, migrants, and environmentalism, saying he “reaffirms” their choice to fight against tyranny amid a “gutting of democracies”.
“As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanisation which would then be hard to reverse,” the pontiff wrote in a letter that was read to organisers this week.
The remarks can be viewed as a clear endorsement by the Argentinian pope of resistance against populist and xenophobic political movements. While he did not name Donald Trump, and stressed his remarks were not targeted at any individual politician, the letter, read at the opening of the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California, seem to speak directly to protests against the Republican president.
In the letter, Francis condemned the growth of populist and xenophobic movements around the world, saying they posed a “grave danger for humanity”. He also criticised leaders who rely on “fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills on to a ‘non-neighbour’”.
“Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates,” he wrote. “The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real.”
He offered praise to the activists who are organising in opposition to those threats. “I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” he wrote.
The remarks would not be the first time Francis has appeared to take aim at the US president. The pope first criticised then-candidate Trump when he called for the building of a border wall between Mexico and the US, with Francis calling it an idea that was not Christian.
This week’s remarks came as several prominent US Catholic cardinals, including Joseph Tobin of Newark, denounced Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, with Tobin calling the order “the opposite of what it means to be an American”.
The theme of migrants and religious intolerance was prominent in the pope’s letter to the activists, in which he emphasised the importance of not classifying “others in order to see who is a neighbour and who is not”.