Pope says the world’s at war, urges Europe to greet refugees


KRAKOW, Poland (AP) — Pope Francis, deeply saddened by the slaying of an elderly priest during Mass in a church in the French countryside, warned grimly Wednesday that the world is at war, but cautioned against labeling it a war among religions.

At the start of his first ever trip to Eastern Europe, where anti-migrant sentiments have been rising, he also encouraged Europe to welcome refugees from war, hunger and religious persecution and called for “courage” and “compassion.”

Francis is celebrating World Youth Day in Poland, where the conservative government has shut the doors to migrants and many fear that accepting Muslim refugees would threaten the nation’s security and its Catholic identity.

As he started the five-day trip, he told an audience of Poland’s president, diplomats and other dignitaries that what is needed is “a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety.”

While the speech had in mind the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing Syria, Iraq and other Mideast countries, as well as impoverished nations in Africa, his reference to practicing one’s faith in safety could also be seen as an allusion to the slaying of the 85-year-old French priest by two extremists in Normandy on Tuesday.

The murder compounded security fears surrounding Francis’ trip, which were already high due to a string of violent attacks in France and Germany. Polish officials say they have deployed tens of thousands of security officials to cover the event.

Francis spoke to reporters as he flew from Rome to Krakow. Asked about the slaying of the priest, Francis replied: “It’s war, we don’t have to be afraid to say this.”

He then sought to avoid any misunderstanding of his definition of war.

“I only want to clarify that, when I speak of war, I am really speaking of war,” he said. “A war of interests, for money, resources, dominion of peoples.”

“I am not speaking of a war of religions. Religions don’t want war. The others want war,” he added.

Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.

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