Pope Francis condemns Isis and praises Turkey for taking in 1.6m refugees from conflicts in Syria and Iraq

The Holy See also called for greater dialogue between Christians and Muslims to end religious fundamentalism

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The Independent Online

Pope Francis has condemned Isis in his first speech of an historic three-day trip to Turkey, at a time when the nation is caring for 1.6million refugees who have fled the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

During his opening address of a three-day trip, the Pope stood  in solidarity with religious minorities, including Christians, which Isis has violently targeted.

Francis also reaffirmed that military force was justified to halt the extremists' advance, but called for greater dialogue between Christians and Muslims 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 lavish new presidential palace.

Aboard the papal plane before his speech, Francis told reporters he was impressed by Turkey’s willingness to host such a large number of refugees, and praised its humanitarian response to "so many refugees from conflict zones."

The Holy See arrived in Turkey on Friday, where he was greeted by Turkish dignitaries headed by the Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who is partly tasked with dealing with Isis, as its fighters cling to swathes of Syria and Iraq across Turkey's southern border.

The Pope will later head to the mausoleum of the Turking republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, where he is scheduled to lay a wreath.

Security for the visit is extremely tight, with a 2,700-strong troupe of police officers on duty during the Ankara trip of the Pope’s trip alone. On top of this, a court has issued an order allowing police to stop and search cars and carry out random identity checks on people along routes used by the Pope.

The three-day-trip will allow Francis to connect with Turkey’s small Catholic community, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and will see him meet spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Francis will also tour some of Istanbul’s most iconic religious buildings, the Hagia Sofia, and the Sultan Ahmet mosque – considered Turkey’s most important place of worship.

Additional reporting by AP

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