While genocide, war crimes, and violence against humanity continue to plague individuals across the globe, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin called for the protection of victims of atrocities and urged both religious leaders and national authorities to step up preventive measures.

"In the face of these grave crimes, there exists a grave responsibility, first for nation States and then for the international community," Cardinal Parolin said in a Sept. 20 address.

"It seems entirely appropriate, therefore, to reflect on the responsibility of religious leaders, especially in an ever more interconnected world, to help counter the spread of hatred and violence in the name of religion and to promote more inclusive and peaceful societies," he continued.

Cardinal Parolin's words came during a keynote address at the "Upholding the Responsibility to Protect: The Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Atrocities" event, sponsored by offices of the Holy See and United Nations.

Throughout his speech, Cardinal Parolin drew attention to the popularization of extremism in religion, saying that some religions have been manipulated into becoming a champion for violence, genocide, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

While freedom of religion is an "inalienable fundamental human right," Cardinal Parolin said that the international sphere must reject the restrictive interpretations of religion that condone violence, while also allowing religion to take a stance in the public square. He argued that religion is not the root of atrocities, but rather, that they stem from a quest for power.

"Religions are not the cause of these ills, that result instead from some political, geopolitical, and economic interests, and from the desire for power and domination," he said.

"All religions aspire to peace," the cardinal continued, but warned that vicious and misguided use of religion can "lead to conflicts and wars."

Because of this, Cardinal Parolin urged religious leaders and national authorities to work together in undertaking the heavy responsibility of preventive measures and by condemning the use of religion to promote violence.

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"An urgent stance is necessary on the part of religious leaders to condemn without delay all forms of abuse of religion or of religious texts to justify violence and the violation of human dignity carried out in the name of God or a religion," Cardinal Parolin stated.

He asked religious leaders to shed light on "principles and ethical values written in the human heart by God, known as the natural moral law." He also encouraged them in their vocations to "carry out and inspire actions aimed at helping the building of societies based on respect for life."

The cardinal also stated that it is the primary - but not exclusive - duty of national authorities to prevent atrocities by ending the trafficking of arms and affirming the dignity of life. He noted an integral part to their responsibility as leaders also means "refraining from supplying weapons, financing or other assistance to the perpetrators of such crimes."

Cardinal Parolin additionally pointed to Pope John Paul II's 1986 meeting in Assisi, Italy, where the belated pope gathered religious leaders from around the world to pray for peace - an event which Pope Francis recently imitated.

Moving forward, Cardinal Parolin noted that "the Holy See will continue to promote both the fundamental moral and juridical principle of the Responsibility to Protect and the right understanding of the social consequences of religion."

"Let us hope that through the combined efforts of the leaders and believers of all religions and all people of good will, in conjunction with State institutions, based on respect for life and human dignity, and oriented to the good of the human person, it will be possible, one day, to put an end to the atrocities, which for too long have shaken the conscience of humanity, undermined its moral and spiritual fiber and turned people away from the plan of God."