Friday August 23, 2019

Pope Francis Condemns Militant Islamist Violence as ‘Homicidal Madness’, forcefully restates a call to ban Nuclear Weapons

Francis called for an end to the arms trade, adding that easy access to weapons, "even those of small caliber," aggravates conflicts and fosters insecurity and fear

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Pope Francis makes his speech during an audience with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings at the Vatican, Jan. 9, 2017. -VOA

Pope Francis condemned militant Islamist violence as “homicidal madness” on Monday. He said leaders should improve social conditions that serve as fertile ground for fundamentalism and radicalization.

Before diplomats from more than 180 countries, he also forcefully restated a call to ban nuclear weapons, saying experiments by North Korea to build long-range missiles risked setting off a new nuclear arms race.

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Francis, delivering the annual papal “state of the world” address, also spoke of the need to defend European unification and for greater unity in facing climate change.

The Argentine-born pontiff, 80, reserved his toughest words of condemnation for the wave of “fundamentalist-inspired terrorism” in 2016, listing attacks by Islamist militants in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States.

“Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence,” he said in the Vatican’s Sala Regia.

“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power. Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name,” he said.

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Francis said religiously inspired violence “is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty. It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders.”

He urged government leaders to enact “suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty” and invest in education and culture.

Francis restated his call for a total nuclear weapons ban, saying North Korea’s threats to test an intercontinental ballistic missile were “particularly disturbing”.

He said they “could destabilize the entire region and raise troubling questions for the entire international community about the risk of a new nuclear arms race.”

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Francis called for an end to the arms trade, adding that easy access to weapons, “even those of small caliber,” aggravates conflicts and fosters insecurity and fear.

Building peace also meant respecting the environment, he said, backing the landmark 2015 global deal struck in Paris, and hoping that tackling climate change “will meet with increased cooperation on the part of all”.

His stand on climate change has put him in direct conflict with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, who said during the campaign that it was a hoax perpetrated by China and threatened to rip up the deal signed by President Barack Obama.

Since winning the election, Trump has said he will keep an “open mind” about the deal.-(VOA)

 

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“Visit Strengthens Further Internal Cohesion and Unity”: Pope Francis Meets Leaders of North Macedonia

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to "sow these seeds" of solidarity.

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Pope Francis greets the crowds in Skopje on May 7. RFERL

Pope Francis, who is on a historic first trip to North Macedonia, has met with the country’s leadership and held Mass in the main square of the capital, Skopje.

Francis was welcomed by the outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov, and other government officials.

He has sought to encourage the country’s drive toward integration into the EU and NATO after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece last year.

Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian.

But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. North Macedonia is home to an estimated 15,000 Catholics.

In meetings with Ivanov and with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the presidential palace, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multiethnic and multifaith culture, calling it an example of peaceful coexistence and a bridge between East and West.

“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said.

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Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian. VOA

“It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.”

In his speech, President Ivanov complained about delays in accepting Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family.

“You come at a time when [North] Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the [North] Macedonian [nation] is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” he said.

Viktor Dimovski, state secretary of North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, told the media on May 6 that the pope’s historic visit comes at a crucial moment as the country seeks entry into the European Union and NATO.

“The pope’s visit strengthens further internal cohesion and unity, and brings messages of reconciliation and solidarity,” he said.

The pope’s visit also included a prayer at the memorial of North Macedonia’s most famous native daughter, Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in Skopje when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.

Francis was surrounded by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity nuns in praying before the memorial. Mother Teresa was canonized by Francis in 2016.

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to “sow these seeds” of solidarity.

“Living together is not always easy, we know that,” the pope said in a video message. “But it’s worth struggling toward, because the most beautiful mosaics are the ones that are richest in colors.”

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But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. Pixabay

With the name dispute with Greece now resolved, North Macedonia, which has been an EU aspirant since 2005, hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Skopje also expects to become the 30th NATO member at the end of the year.

Also Read: Puppeteers Bring Message of Harmony, Love, Tolerance in Pakistan’s Karachi

Stevo Pendarovski, who was elected president in a runoff election on May 5, said he saw his victory as a “ticket for NATO and EU.”

Six Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia — are in various stages of the accession process to join the EU. (RFERL)