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Pope Francis commends Nigerian priests for standing strong in the face of Boko Haram violence

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Pope Francis has applauded the bravery of Nigerian priests who have stood strong in the face of Boko Haram violence and worked to build bridges with the Muslim community.

“How can we fail to remember the priests, religious men and women, missionaries and catechists (lay teachers) who, despite untold sacrifices, never abandoned their flock, but remained at their service,” the Argentinian pope was quoted as saying by AFP in an open letter on Tuesday.

“I wish here to express my heartfelt thanks to you, because in the midst of so many trials and sufferings the Church in Nigeria does not cease to witness to hospitality, mercy and forgiveness,” he said.

Pope Francis also slammed the militants as “people who claim to be religious, but who instead abuse religion, to make of it an ideology for their own distorted interests of exploitation and murder.”

But he urged Churches in NIgeria to continue “to favour reconciliation, to promote experiences of sharing, to extend bridges of dialogue, to serve the weakest and the excluded.” Boko Haram began their violent insurgency in 2009 and have killed more than 13,000 people, displaced 1.5 million, and destroyed churches and mosques.

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