Pope Francis condemned Monday the religious fundamentalism behind the recent attacks in Paris and the Middle East. He said the terrorists based their actions on "deviant forms of religion" -- a trend the international community must work together to stop, the Associated Press reported.
"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext," Francis said in his annual speech before the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. A "culture of rejection" breaks down society and creates violence, he said. When that happens, other people "are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects," Francis said.
The pontiff mentioned the "tragic slayings" that took place last week in France, where police say Muslim extremists Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi fatally shot 12 at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Their associate, Amedy Coulibalay, allegedly killed four people and a police officer as well as took hostages in a kosher grocery market. All three men were killed Friday.
Fundamentalist terrorism, which Francis said continues to spread in Syria and Iraq, is "a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God." He urged Muslim leaders to denounce these extremist ideas. "I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence," Francis said.
The pope also called for the international community to take action toward bringing peace and protection to their citizens. "A unanimous response is needed, one which, within the framework of international law, can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused," Francis said.