Pope Francis condemns 'fundamentalist terrorism'

(Photo: Reuters)

Pope Francis has spoken out against the religious fundamentalism behind horrific terrorist attacks like last week's Charlie Hebdo shootings and the current Middle East turmoil.

In his annual address to diplomatic representatives to the Holy See yesterday, Pope Francis said that extremists "enslaved" by "deviant forms of religion" are using a perverted interpretation of their faith to justify acts of evil.

"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext," the 78-year-old pontiff said.

The pope called the international community to end "fundamentalist terrorism" in the Middle East where Christians and other religious minorities are persecuted, saying that "a Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East."

The head of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church also urged "religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community," to denounce the "extremist interpretations" of Islam that are used to justify acts of violence.

In his speech, Pope Francis referred to the slaying that took 17 lives in Paris in the span of three days as "tragic", saying that the massacres were the result of a "throwaway culture which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself."

The Holy See also remembered the over one hundred children "slaughtered with unspeakable brutality" by the Taliban in a military-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan, as well as the "abominable" abduction and abuse of young girls carried out by Boko Haram jihadists in Nigeria.

According to the Telegraph, the pontiff's condemnation of Islamic fundamentalism happened amidst reports that the Vatican could be the Islamic State's next target.

Authorities said that although the Vatican and Italy in general are not at "zero risk" from ISIS, no concrete information about any attack planned by the militant group against the Pope or the Vatican has been received from the United States or any other ally.