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Pope Francis rejects "martyr" label for suicide bombers

Pope Francis leads a consistory for the creation of five new cardinals on June 28, 2017, at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has repudiated the idea that suicide bombers can be considered "martyrs," saying true martyrs don't harm others but rather are meek, honest and persecuted for their faith as true children of God. 

Francis dedicated his weekly Wednesday catechism lesson to the strength of martyrs, returning once again to an issue he has raised frequently amid Islamic extremist attacks against Christian minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

He said: "Christians are repelled by the idea that suicide bombers can be called 'martyrs.' There's nothing in them that can be even close to the attitude of children of God." 

Francis has lamented that there are more Christian martyrs today than in the times of the early church. He has demanded Muslim leaders reject committing violence in God's name.

Later Wednesday, Francis named five new cardinals, somberly instructing them to act as servants and not "princes" in a world where innocents are dying from wars and terrorism, slavery persists and refugee camps often are living hells. 

Reflecting Francis' attention to the poor, three of the five cardinals hail from developing nations and regions: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Laos; Bamako Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Mali; and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, who continued working as a parish priest while serving as San Salvador's auxiliary bishop. 

The other two elevated churchmen are Barcelona, Spain, Archbishop Juan Jose Omella, who early in his clerical career worked as a missionary in Zaire; and Stockholm Bishop Anders Arborelius. The Swedish prelate last year welcomed Francis to his country, where Lutherans are the majority Christian group. 

Cardinals are often referred to as "princes of the church," a reflection of their prestigious roles of advising the pope and electing his successor, as well as their often-posh residences.