VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Sunday condemned two suicide attacks on churches in Lahore and accused the world of “seeking to hide” the persecution of Christians as reported by AFP.
“It’s with pain, much pain that I was told of the terrorist attacks against two Christian churches in Lahore in Pakistan, which have caused numerous deaths and injuries,” the pope said after his weekly Angelus prayer in Rome.
“These are Christian churches and Christians are persecuted, our Christian brothers are spilling their blood simply because they are Christians,” he said.
Francis told crowds at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican that he prayed for peace in the country and that “this persecution of Christians, and that the world tries to hide it, finishes”.
Pope Francis, spiritual leader of Roman Catholics worldwide, regularly condemns violence against Christians in Iraq and Syria and other regions, often at the hands of militants.
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s ambassador in Geneva has said the use of force will be necessary to protect minority groups from Islamic State aggression if a political solution cannot be achieved.
In an interview with US Catholic website Crux, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the jihadists, who have declared a cross-border caliphate after seizing land in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, were committing “genocide” and must be stopped.
“What’s needed is a coordinated and well-thought-out coalition to do everything possible to achieve a political settlement without violence,” Crux quoted Tomasi as saying on Friday, “but if that’s not possible, then the use of force will be necessary.”
Tomasi’s words follow repeated condemnations of Islamic State by Pope Francis, who decried the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya in February and has said it is “lawful” to stop an unjust aggressor.
The ambassador’s comments were published on the same day a group of countries led by the Holy See, Russia and Lebanon issued a statement calling on the international community to support all ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East.
The Vatican said more than 60 countries including the United States have endorsed the statement, which warns that Christians in particular now “live a serious existential threat”.
Tomasi emphasised in the interview that Christians are not the only minority group the Vatican wants to protect from Islamic State, which has beheaded Arab and western hostages and kidnapped or killed members of different religious minorities.
“Christians, Yazidis, Shi’ites, Sunnis, Alawites, all are human beings whose rights deserve to be protected,” he said. “Christians are a special target at this moment, but we want to help them without excluding anyone.”
Tomasi said any anti-Islamic State coalition should include the Muslim states of the Middle East and be guided by the United Nations.