Pope Calls Extremism a ‘Grave Sin’

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Pontiff and Patriarch of Orthodox Church Speak Out Against Plight of Persecuted Christians in Mideast.

Pope Francis joined Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran

Pope Francis met with refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East and issued a strong call for Christian unity in the face of Islamist extremism, ending a three-day visit to Turkey that has focused on a message of interreligious tolerance and outreach.

On the final day of a visit to a country that has taken in more than 1.5 million refugees, the pope met with 100 Christian children and teens who fled Iraq and have taken refuge in Turkey.

Pope Francis has spoken often of the plight of the region’s refugees and sent a personal envoy to northern Iraq this summer with money from the pontiff’s own charitable fund to assist relief efforts. “The degrading conditions in which so many refugees are forced to live are intolerable,” he told the young refugees Sunday.

The pope had pressed his advisers to find a way for him to visit a refugee camp during his visit but said it wasn’t possible. On the flight back to Rome, he said he would still like to visit Iraq but won’t do so at the moment because “it would create serious problems for the authorities in terms of security.”

The decision by Pope Francis to visit Turkey was viewed as significant given the sectarian strife along its borders in Iraq and Syria, where Islamic extremists have killed and persecuted religious minorities, including Christians. On Sunday, the pope called the violence by Islamist extremists is “a profoundly grave sin against God.”

Speaking to journalists during his return flight, the pope said Muslim leaders should issue a global condemnation of violence by Islamist extremists. But, he added, “no one can say that all followers of Islam are terrorists, any more than you can say that all Christians are fundamentalists.”

Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has long served as a bridge between East and West but is under pressure to contain the conflagration on its borders and cope with huge flows of refugees. The pope expressed “deep gratitude” for Turkey’s efforts and called on the international community to help Ankara.

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