It is "neither right nor true" to label Islam as a terrorist religion, Pope Francis said aboard the papal plane. He lamented young people turning to drugs, alcohol and fundamentalist groups.
The "Islamic State" group "presents itself with a violent identity card, but that's not Islam," the pope said on his way back from the five-day visit to Poland.
The comments came as a response to a reporter abroad a papal plane, who asked the pontiff why he never used the word "Islam" to describe terrorism or violent attacks.
"I don't like to talk of Islamic violence because every day, when I go through the newspapers, I see violence, this man who kills his girlfriend, another who kills his mother-in-law," Francis replied, apparently referring to Italian press.
"And these are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, then I have to speak of Catholic violence."
The Vatican chief also stressed that he had talked with Islamic clerics.
"I know how they think, they are looking for peace," he said.
"I think it is neither true nor right to say that Islam is a terrorist religion," he concluded.
'Empty of ideals'
Last week, a day before the pope left for Poland, two young jihadists took hostages in a French church and slaughtered an 85-year old priest. Muslim representatives joined memorial services across France and Italy, denouncing extremism in a symbolic move.
French Muslim council CFCM also called on the believers to show "solidarity and compassion" over the incident.
Francis stopped at a Krakow church during his visit to implore God to protect people from the "devastating wave" of terrorism around the world. On his way back, he pointed out that most Muslims, just like Christians, were not violent.
"One thing is true: I think that in nearly all religions there is always a small group of fundamentalists," he added.
The pope also urged Europeans to reflect on the motives of people running away to join Islamist organizations in the Middle East.
"I ask myself: how many young people, whom we Europeans have left empty of ideals, have no jobs and turn to drugs, alcohol or enroll themselves in fundamentalist groups," he said.
dj/kl (dpa, AP, AFP)