Italy’s Il Tempo newspaper reported on Monday that Pope Francis is a target of the Islamic State militant group. According to the article, Israeli sources believe that Pope Francis is “in the crosshairs of the ISIS” as the “greatest exponent of the Christian religion” and is considered a “bearer of false truth”.
However, the Vatican has released a statement to the Catholic News Agency that this is not true.
“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” a Vatican spokesman said.
Il Tempo had warned that the number of jihadists in Italy is increasing due to an influx of unidentified immigrants.
The tension among Christians in Italy is high due to statements such as those made by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of ISIS. Baghdadi encouraged all Muslims to return to the Middle East and join the movement.
“Those who can immigrate to the Islamic State should immigrate, as immigration to the house of Islam is a duty,” he said. "Rush O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims.”
But Baghdadi concluded his statement with an ominous declaration that Christians in Italy are keeping an eye on.
"This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”
Christians around the world are watching developments in Mosul, the largest Christian city in Iraq, where ISIS militants are reported to be beheading Christians, including children.
Pope Francis has spoken out about the need to stop ISIS, though he stops short of endorsing American airstrikes.
"I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means,” he said in a recent press conference. "It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him?"