Pope Francis on Monday slammed "deviant forms of religion" following deadly attacks by Islamist militants in France last week and dubbed the "never-ending spread of conflicts" around the world a third world war.
"Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion," he said, laying the blame on "a culture of rejection" which leads to "the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death".
"We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago," he said in his yearly speech to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.
The 78-year-old was speaking after France's bloodiest attacks in half a century, which left 17 people dead.
He pointed to "chilling repercussions" from conflicts in the Middle East and "the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and Iraq".
"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext," he said.
Not for the first time, Francis called for "a unanimous response... within the framework of international law" to the so-called Islamic State and also urged the Muslim community to "condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion".
The pope has spoken before about the spread of conflicts around the globe being effectively a sort of third world war, and in this speech, known as his "State of the World" address, he repeated the claim of "a true world war fought piecemeal".
He called on the world to remember August 6, 1945, the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the day "humanity witnessed one of the most horrendous catastrophes in its history".
As Europe began a period of self-reflection on the roots and rise of home-grown terrorism, Francis touched on some of the possible social and cultural issues which may be driving the continent's disillusioned young to jihadism.
He pointed to "a model of globalization which levels out differences and even discards cultures, cutting them off from those factors which shape each people's identity".
"In a drab, anonymous world, it is easy to understand the difficulties and the discouragement felt by many people who have literally lost the sense of being alive," he said.
He urged "a renewed spirit of respect for international law" in Ukraine, where Europe's worst conflict since the Balkan wars of the 1990s has left more than 4,700 people dead according to the UN.
The pontiff looked to Africa, where he spoke of his sadness over kidnappings in Nigeria and civilian casualties in South Sudan, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But he said the year had seen some positive developments as well, from the historic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, to efforts to close Guantanamo Bay.
He was also upbeat about Iran, saying he hoped for a definitive agreement with the 5+1 Group "regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." AFP