RELIGION

Pope Francis Decries ISIS Beheading Of Egyptian Coptic Christians In Libya

Pope Francis leads a mass on February 15, 2015 at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican. Pope Francis announced yesterday that he w
Pope Francis leads a mass on February 15, 2015 at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican. Pope Francis announced yesterday that he will elevate four women to sainthood in May, all nuns who lived in the 19th century and founded Catholic orders -- one French, one Italian and two Palestinians. The canonisation will take place on May 17, the pope announced at the end of a consistory, or a meeting of cardinals, at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

(Reuters) - Pope Francis expressed deep sadness for the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, departing from the script of an address on Monday to emphasize the unity of all Christians regardless of the denomination they follow.

Addressing members of the Church of Scotland, the Argentine pope mentioned the killings which took place on a beach in Libya and were filmed and broadcast on Sunday by a website that supports Islamic State.

"Their only words were: 'Jesus, help me!' They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians," Francis said in his native Spanish, departing from the Italian he uses at most formal events.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, who has said it is "lawful" to stop an unjust aggressor, went on:

"The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!"

Francis added: "The martyrs belong to all Christians."

Egypt, where Christians make up around a tenth of a predominantly Muslim population, is stepping up its battle against Islamist militants in neighboring Libya.

The Coptic Church is founded on the teachings of St. Mark who took Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero.

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