Pope Francis denounced those who wage war in the name of God, as he met faith leaders and victims of war yesterday to discuss growing religious fanaticism and escalating violence around the world.
“The world is at war, the world is suffering,” he said before the meeting, which came as fighting resumed in Syria and the US investigated an attack possibly linked to the Islamic State group.
“There is no God of war,” he said, calling on all men and women of good will, of any religion, to pray for peace.
He was speaking on the World Day of Prayer, established by John Paul II 30 years ago, held in the medieval town of Assisi, in central Italy.
It aims to combat the persecution of people for their faith and extremism dressed up as religion.
The pope was quick to remind the West that while it had suffered a string of deadly jihadist attacks, there were parts of the world where cities were being flattened by fighting, prisoners were tortured and families were starved to death.
“We are frightened . . . by some terrorist acts” but “this is nothing compared to what is happening in those countries, in those lands where day and night bombs fall”, he said earlier at a morning mass at the Vatican before leaving for Assisi.
“As we pray today, it would be good if we all felt shame, shame that humans, our brothers and sisters, are capable of doing this.”
The 79-year old pope later arrived by helicopter in Assisi and was set to meet war victims and faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.
The Vatican said he would also meet one on one with unnamed Muslim and Jewish representatives, as well as a Budhist leader.