Pope Francis Denounces Islamic Extremism, Is At Risk For ISIS Assassination

( [email protected] ) Sep 22, 2014 06:34 PM EDT
Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves as he boards his plane to leave for his pastoral visit to Albania, at Fiumicino airport in Rome September 21, 2014. (Reuters)

Pope Francis recently denounced extremists around the world who "pervert" religion to justify violence shortly after a top Iraqi diplomat warned that the pontiff is at risk of assassination from the Islamic State.

During his 11 hour visit to Albania, Francis told President Bujar Nishani, Albanian officials and the diplomatic corps that the harmony between Christians and Muslims in Albania is an "inspiring example" for the world, showing that Christian-Muslim coexistence was not only possible but beneficial for a country's development.

"This is especially the case in these times in which authentic religious spirit is being perverted by extremist groups," he said.

"Let no one consider themselves to be the 'armor' of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!" Francis said in the wood-paneled reception room of Tirana's presidential palace.

The Pope's comments were made just days after Habeeb al-Sadr, Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, said that ISIS had issued "credible threats" to kil the pontiff.

Although al-Sadr admitted he had no specific details of the threat to Pope Francis's life, he said: "Just put two and two together... They want to kill the Pope." He also added that the growing threat of extremism meant that the Pope would "never be safe anywhere in the world, including on trips to Britain and the US, and even in Rome itself."

Speaking to Italian newspaper La Nazione, he said: "Let me be clear, I am not aware of specific facts or operational projects. But what has been said by the self-declared "Islamic state" terrorists is clear. They want to kill the Pope.

"I think they could try to hit him during his travels or even in Rome, because there are members of ISIS who are not Arabs but also Canadians, Americans, French, British and Italian.

"This gang of criminals does not merely threaten. In Iraq they have violated or destroyed some of the holiest sites of Shia Islam. They have hit places of worship in the Yazidi religion and Christianity. They forced 150,000 Christians to flee Mosul."

Following his trip to Albania, the Pope will visit Turkey at the end of November, which, although listed officially as secular, has a majority Muslim population and a government that is increasingly Islamising the country. It is also next to war-torn Syria, which has becoming a centre for the ISIS terror group.

Following the Pope's visit, Albania's president, Nishani, thanked Francis for making the country his first European destination, saying it was a historic event for all Albanians.

"There is no intolerance, extremism among us but reciprocal respect inherited from generation to generation," he said. "From an atheist country, we have turned into a country of religious freedom."