Ankara: Pope Francis condemned the Islamic State group's assault on Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, as he arrived on Friday in Turkey to encourage Muslim leaders to take a stronger stand against extremists who twist religion to justify terrorism.
Francis sought to offer a balanced message as he met with Turkish officials upon his arrival in Ankara, his second trip to the Middle East this year. He reaffirmed that military force was justified to halt the extremists' advance, but called for greater dialogue between Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths to end fundamentalism.
"Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers," Francis told Turkish officials at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's massive new presidential palace.
Francis praised Turkey's welcome of some 1.6 million refugees and said the international community had the "moral obligation" to help Ankara provide for them.
The three-day visit comes at a sensitive moment for the Muslim nation, as it weighs how to respond to the IS advance amid US calls to get more engaged with the international coalition fighting the extremists.
Turkey has accused the Islamic militant group of casting a shadow over Islam and has said Muslim countries have a duty to stand up against the group's radical views.