Religious fundamentalism keeping God away from people, says Pope Francis

Pope Francis says priests should be 'bridge builders' and work hard to bring people closer to God.Reuters

Pope Francis is blaming religious fundamentalism for keeping God away from the people.

"Our God is a God who is close, who accompanies. Fundamentalists keep God away from accompanying His people. They divert their minds from Him and transform Him into an ideology. So in the name of this ideological god, they kill, they attack, destroy, slander. Practically speaking, they transform that God into a Baal, an idol," he said in a radio interview with evangelical Protestant Marcelo Figueroa, according to the Catholic News Agency.

"No religion is immune from its own fundamentalisms," he added. "In every religion there will be a small group of fundamentalists whose work is to destroy for the sake of an idea, and not reality. And reality is superior to ideas."

Pope Francis stressed that religion should do away with fundamentalism because it creates a wall that blocks any encounter with another person. Instead of building a bridge so that two people can connect, fundamentalists burn down the bridge by creating disagreements.

Church leaders should be very careful on how they deal with fundamentalism, the Pope warned, since there are many temptations for priests and bishops. "A priest has to be a bridge, that's why they call him a pontiff," he said, as he alluded to the original, literal meaning of "pontifex" as "bridge-builder."

At the same time, Pope Francis expressed his views on friendship, and how much it pains him whenever people only seek to be friends when they are in need of something.

"I have felt used by some people who have presented themselves as 'friends' with whom I may not have seen more than once or twice in my lifetime, and they used this for their own gain. But this is an experience which we have all undergone: utilitarian friendship," the Pope said.