ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis said Sunday he won’t label Islam as “terrorist” because that would be unfair and not true.
Reporters aboard the papal plane flying him home after a pilgrimage to Poland, the day after extremists slit the throat of an elderly priest celebrating Mass in a French church, asked him why he never uses the word “Islam” to describe terrorism or other violence.
While in Poland, Francis made an unscheduled stop at a church in Krakow to implore God to protect people from the “devastating wave” of terrorism in many parts of the world.
When asked why he didn’t describe the priest’s murder and other attacks as Islamic terrorism, Francis replied he won’t do that because “it’s not right to identify Islam with violence. It’s not right and it’s not true.”
“I believe that in every religion there is always a little fundamentalist group,” he said.
“I don’t like to talk of Islamic violence because, every day, when I go through the newspapers, I see violence, this man who girls his girlfriend, another who kills his mother-in-law,” Francis said, in apparent reference to crime news in predominantly Catholic Italy. “And these are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, then I have to speak of Catholic violence.”
“In Islam, not all are violent, not all the Catholics are violent,” he said. “It’s like a fruit salad, everything’s in there.
Noting he has spoken with imams, he concluded: “I know how they think, they are looking for peace.”
As for ISIS, he said, the Islamic State group “presents itself with a violent identity card, but that’s not Islam.”
Francis spoke on the day when Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Sunday Mass in a show of interfaith solidarity following a string of extremist attacks threatening to sharpen religious divides across Europe.