On Friday Pope Francis met with participants in a conference on violence committed in the name of religion, emphasizing that to use God as justification for sin is one of the worst blasphemes, and something religious leaders must work to combat.
“The religious person knows that among the greatest blasphemies is to invoke God as the justification for one’s own sins and crimes,” the Pope said Feb. 2.
“To invoke him in order to justify killing, mass murder, enslavement, exploitation in whatever form, oppression and persecution of individuals and entire populations… The religious person knows that God is the Holy One, and that no one can claim to use his name in order to perpetrate evil.”
Speaking to around 50 participants in a conference titled “Tackling violence committed in the name of religion,” Francis said that religious leaders need to “unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with him or his glory.”
“We need to show, with unremitting effort, that every human life is sacred, that it deserves respect, esteem, compassion and solidarity, without regard for ethnicity, religion, culture, or ideological and political convictions,” he said.
The Pope has been vocal about the responsibility of leaders of all kind to combat religiously-motivated violence, including during a speech in Cairo in April 2017, at the International Peace Conference.
There he said, “We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God.”
“God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of
violence… For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression…” he said.
He also emphasised that no one has added or lessened dignity for belonging to a different religion. And the same goes for rights, which are neither diminished nor conferred based on creed.
He also noted the significance of political authorities and religious leaders meeting together to discuss this issue.
There is a need for a common commitment on the part of all leaders and educators to warn anyone tempted “by perverse forms of misguided religiosity that these have nothing to do with the profession of a religion worthy of this name,” he said.
To do this will help people of “good will who seek God” to find him in truth and to see that he sets us free from fear, hatred and violence.
“Violence promoted and carried out in the name of religion can only discredit religion itself,” he continued. Therefore, everyone has a responsibility to condemn violence, but especially genuinely religious people, he said, who know that God is all goodness, love and compassion, with no room for “hatred, resentment, or vengeance.”
“I renew my appreciation for your readiness to engage in reflection and dialogue on a subject of such dramatic import, and for your expert contribution to the growth of a culture of peace always founded on truth and love,” he concluded.