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La Croix, May 17, 2016
VATICAN CITY — In a rare interview, Pope Francis told French Catholic daily La Croix that there is no "fear of Islam" in Europe, and that the freedom to practice religion must be protected "not outside, but inside society."
The wide-ranging interview, published Tuesday, covered the Pope's views on the refugee crisis, Islam, France's rigid brand of secularism — known as laïcité — and a pedophilia scandal currently plaguing one of France's largest dioceses.
"Coexistence between Christians and Muslims is possible," Francis declared, calling on Europe to play its part in welcoming and integrating migrants, often from predominantly Islamic countries. He also pointed out what he deemed to be the root causes of the refugee crisis: wars ravaging the Middle East and Africa, and the global economic system, which has "fallen into the idolatry of money."
Francis denied that there is a "fear of Islam" in Europe, though he acknowledged strong concerns about terrorism carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS).
The Pope supported separation of church and state, noting that history has shown that a theocracy always "ends badly," he told La Croix. Still, he strongly defended religious freedom and the right of individuals to "practice their faith, not outside, but inside society," be they Muslim women wearing headscarves or Catholics wearing crucifixes.
Francis also expressed support for French Cardinal Philipp Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, who has been accused of not reporting to legal authorities several child abuse cases involving French priests under his jurisdiction.
The Pope told La Croix that the resignation of the archbishop of Lyon, who is "a good and devoted man," would be "a mistake, an imprudence." He nonetheless emphasized that a zero tolerance policy should be applied, as "through these abuses, a priest â€¦ spreads evil, resentment and suffering."