Vatican City, Jan 21, 2015 / 15:50 pm
Pope Francis condemned deadly protests in Niger during which dozens of churches were torched over the weekend, stressing that religious motives do not justify violence.
"One cannot make war in God's name!" the Pope said during his weekly general audience on Jan. 21.
Ten people were killed and 45 churches were set on fire in the riots erupted after the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo published an image of Mohammed on the Jan. 14 front cover, an act which many Muslims deem offensive.
One week earlier, 12 people were killed on Jan. 7 when Islamic terrorists stormed Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris.
Pope Francis called for prayers for the "beloved Niger," where "brutalities were committed against Christians, against children, against churches."
Praying for "reconciliation and peace," Pope Francis stressed that "religious sentiments are never an occasion for violence, oppression and destruction.
Five people were killed in the Niger capital of Niamey, while five more were killed in the southern city of Zinder. Around 170 people were injured in the riots.
Government officials reported seeing perpetrators carrying flags in support of Boko Haram, an Islamic group based in neighboring Nigeria. Niger is approximately 99 percent Muslim.
Before leading the crowds gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI hall in praying the Hail Mary, the Pope concluded his remarks by expressing his hope for the restoration of a "climate of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence for the good of all."
During a Jan. 16 in-flight press conference, Pope Francis told journalists that freedom of expression has limits, but that no one has the right to kill in God's name.