VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Monday condemned last week’s killings by Islamist militants in Paris and urged Muslim leaders around the world to denounce fundamentalist interpretations of religion that use God’s name to justify violence.

‘Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others,’ the pope said. The Argentine pope, 78, made the comments in an annual meeting with diplomats accredited to the Vatican in a speech that has come to be known as his ‘State of the World’ address. Francis said the killings in Paris showed how the rejection of other people’s beliefs could lead to a breakdown of society and spawn violence and death. Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday when Islamist militants attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, whose unsparing cartoons have lampooned Islam alongside other religions. ‘I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion that attempt to justify such acts of violence,’ the pope said.

Francis has several times condemned Islamic State fighters who have killed or displaced Shi’ite Muslims, Christians and others in Syria and Iraq who do not share the group’s ideology. ‘Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,’ he told the diplomats from some 180 countries. In other sections of his speech, he denounced human trafficking as ‘an abominable trade’ and condemned the ‘unspeakable brutality’ of last month’s attack by Taliban militants in which more than 130 Pakistani schoolchildren were killed. He held up the recent agreement by the United States and Cuba to re-establish ties after more than half a century, in a deal that the Vatican helped to broker, as an example of how patient diplomacy and dialogue can build bridges.