Pope Francis says it is wrong to equate violence with Islam, adding that "I do not believe that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist."
On a flight back to the Vatican after a five-day visit to Poland, Francis was asked by a reporter about remarks he made following last week's attack on a church in northern France in which an elderly priest was brutally murdered. The reporter asked the pope why he refers to terrorists but never to Islam when talking about such violent incidents.
Francis responded that the characterization of Islam as violent is untrue and that violence committed by extremist groups such as the Islamic State should not be attributed to the religion as a whole.
"If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence," the pope said.
"I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists," he said, adding, "When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no?"
Francis went on to say that the real cause of terrorism lies in the idolatry of wealth: "Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person."
The pope's comments came hours after Muslims throughout France attended a Catholic Mass following the death of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit by two men who attacked the church near Rouen.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France.