Pope Francis on Monday condemned the recent killing of 21 Egyptian Christian men in Libya by militants aligned with the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“They only said, ‘Jesus help me …’ The blood of our Christian brothers is testimony that cries out. Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian!” he said in impromptu remarks, according to The Associated Press.
Over the weekend, ISIS released a video purportedly showing the beheading of the 21 individuals. The footage showed a line of men in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, forced to their knees and beheaded. The Egyptian government declared the video authentic. Less than 12 hours later on Monday, the Egyptian military carried out airstrikes in Libya in retaliation, reportedly killing as many as 50 militants.
Over the past year, the terror group has brutally executed a number of hostages, including American journalists and western aid workers. Kayla Mueller was the latest American hostage to be killed, though it’s unclear how she died. ISIS recently claimed Mueller was killed in a Jordanian airstrike against the terror group.
The pope’s comment on Monday came as his latest charitable initiative became a reality. Homeless men and women lined up off of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to take showers and shave. The idea apparently stemmed from the pope’s chief alms-giver encountering a homeless man who declined the charity provider’s offer to celebrate his 50th birthday at a restaurant because of his odor last year. Donations and the sale of papal parchments by his alm-giver’s office are funding the service, the AP reported.
Francis, the first Jesuit to assume the role of pontiff, succeeded Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013 and promised to change the ways the Vatican conducts business. He has broken with his predecessors several times by changing the public’s expectations of the church.
On Sunday, Francis once again seemed eager to move forward with historic reforms within the church. He said the church must be open and welcoming, and urged the hierarchy to reach out to individuals rejected by society and the church.
“There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost,” he said in front of hundreds of cardinals and bishops on Sunday, the Religion News Service reported. “Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking.” He also reportedly criticized the “narrow and prejudiced” mentality of Catholics who cling to religious law out of fear. Often, he said, they ultimately reject the individuals they should be helping.
In an effort to reform the Catholic leadership, Francis has convened summits at the Vatican to discuss overhauling the bureaucracy and changing church practices. He appointed 20 new cardinals on Saturday.