By Jay Gotera
Pope Francis addresses the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Nov. 25, 2014.
Even if he has become the target of Islamic radicals, Pope Francis said his door “is always open” for peace initiatives, indicating his willingness to talk peace with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Isil has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, displacing thousands of people, slaughtering civilians and beheading Western hostages, in its campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.
Interviewed by journalists on Tuesday aboard the papal plane on his way back to the Vatican from Strasbourg, France, the Holy Father admitted though that it is “almost impossible” to have a dialogue with the Isil extremists.
But “I never say ‘all is lost’, never,” the Pontiff emphasized. “Maybe there can’t be a dialogue but you can never shut a door,” he said in response to a question on whether it would be possible to communicate with the Islamic radicals.
Pope Francis has denounced the persecution of Christians by the Isil militants in Iraq and Syria and has conditionally backed the ongoing U.S.-led airstrikes against Isil forces.
This has infuriated the Isil which recently released online propaganda videos and messages vowing to “conquer Rome” and plant its black flag at the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
In his speech to the European Parliament, Pope Francis once again lamented how Christians and other minorities are being subjected to “barbaric acts of violence.”
They had been “evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many,” the 77-year-old Argentinean pontiff said.
The Pope underscored anew the need to stop an “unjust aggressor” such as the Isil.
At the same time though, the Holy Father warned of over-reaction on the part of other countries.
“There is another threat, that of state terrorism,” he said. “Each state, for its own part, feels it has the right to massacre terrorists. But so many innocent people perish at the same time as the terrorists.”
Pope Francis did not name names, but his remarks appeared to be a criticism of the Syrian regime, which is accused of slaughtering thousands of its own citizens, and even of the United States, which has killed innocent civilians with its drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Analysts say the Pope may also be referring to Israel’s actions against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
“We have to fight terrorism. But when you have to stop an unjust aggressor, it has to be done with international consensus. No country can, on its own, stop an unjust aggressor,” the Pope said.
After a brief rest in the Vatican, the Pope will leave for Turkey on Friday for a three-day visit to Ankara and Istanbul where he is again expected to denounce the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.