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Pope Francis condemns Islamic State’s executions of Christians in Libya

Families of the 27 Egyptian Coptic Christians workers kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte, hold pictures of their kidnapped relatives as they ask for their release, in front of the U.N. office in Cairo January 19, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-LIBYA, originally transmitted on February 16, 2015.
Families of the 27 Egyptian Coptic Christians workers kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte, hold pictures of their kidnapped relatives as they ask for their release, in front of the U.N. office in Cairo January 19, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Families of the 27 Egyptian Coptic Christians workers kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte, hold pictures of their kidnapped relatives in front of the U.N. office in Cairo January 19, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-LIBYA, originally transmitted on February 16, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Monday (Feb. 16) denounced the brutal slayings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by militants linked to the Islamic State, saying “they were assassinated just for being Christian.”

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks during an audience with an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland.

The pope, switching to his native Spanish, noted that those killed only said “Jesus help me.”

“Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian! The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ,” Francis said. He said their deaths bore witness to “an ecumenism of blood” that should unite Christians, a phrase he has used repeatedly as the Islamic State continues its bloody march.

The pope telephoned the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to show his profound solidarity in the sorrow of the Coptic Church for the barbaric assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. He assured him of his prayers and also said  he would unite himself spiritually with the prayers of the Coptic Church at his morning Mass Tuesday (Feb. 17) when the men are to be buried.

The Islamic State militants released a video late Sunday (Feb. 15) purporting to show the mass beheading of the Christian hostages, who had been held for several weeks.

In the video, one of the militants points northward toward Italy, some 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, and says, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

Nerves were already on edge in Europe following the terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris last months and over the weekend in Copenhagen.

But Vatican officials have downplayed any immediate danger and say that Vatican and Italian security forces are monitoring the situation.

The Vatican also said Francis called the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, to offer his “sorrow of the Coptic Church for the recent barbaric assassination of Coptic Christians by Islamic fundamentalists.”

KRE END GIBSON

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

14 Comments

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  • I am convinced that Isis needs to be CRUSHED! !
    They are barbarians to the hilt. They are an abomination to Islam! Further more, they are evil, and these people have no conscious! !
    In addition, Hate crimes need to be CRUSHED in Europe, and the United States. However, if European Jewish people all move to Israel, the entire country will be a target. God forbid!
    How many more people will die, just because they are Christian, or Jewish, or, pure Islam, (especially the pilot from Jordan).

  • It is faith that is the root cause of all religious belief, so therefore violence. The belief in things that have no proof that are true, and that even have proof that they are not is a powerful force especially when used for terrible things done to others in its name. Until humanity can shed the desire to believe anything based on faith alone, we are all doomed to violence done by believers who think they do the will of the concept of god.

  • It is faith that is the root cause of all religious belief, so therefore violence.

    Another time, another place, you may come to listen to something other than the voices in your head.

  • My heart grieves over the 21 Christians kill by Isis members. I can only imagine the grief their families are enduring. It was good to read Pope Francis’ words concerning that it didn’t matter which part of the Christianity the men belonged. It was Christian blood spilled. There was a time long ago that the Catholic church did not think that way.

    Is there a possibility that there will come a time Islam will no longer have groups like Isis? I pray so.

    Faith is not the cause of violence, it is the twisting that men do to go beyond faith to make rules and doctrines to suit their purposes.

  • Chaplain—There is more and more evidence that the apostasy of the West and the bloody terrorism of some Moslems is bringing Christians of all types together to take on the evils of our time.

  • “However, if European Jewish people all move to Israel, the entire country will be a target. God forbid!”

    Hey, Beth! Wake Up!. Why do you think radical Islam has arisen in our times? One reason: European Jews moved into Palestine to destroy it. The establishment of Israel against U.N.’s own Charter protecting the Right of Self-determination by Indigenous Populations is the act of religious war by Zionist Jews and Christians against Muslim Middle East nations. You get the Yiddish Colony out of Palestine and let Palestinians run their own nation and not Yiddish European Jewish convert descendants, you won’t have ISIS or Boko Haram or any of the radical Muhammadan armies because all along it has been Israel that Muslims use to justify their religious war with the West.

  • Mr. Gunter, you claim religious people believe in things that have no proof of being true. So I would ask you if you believe that ALL the matter in the universe was sourced from a Big Bang somewhere near the center of the universe from “condensed matter” the size of a pinhead? That sounds like a religion to me. Where’s your proof? Religion has plenty of proof, only you are not willing to look at it. What about the miracles of the Eucharist, some of which have been captured on film, such as Betania Venezuela. Or the yearly liquefaction of the blood of the martyr Januarius (d. 305 AD), or the appearance of Mary in the 1600’s describing the 20th century to a tee (Google: Our Lady of Good Success About Our Times). Or the many ongoing apparitions of our times, such as Medjugorje. No God didn’t just hand us a Bible and say, “see you when I return,” he has been sending us proofs of his existence for the past two millenia, only we refuse to listen. Proof is there if you desire it.

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