RELIGION

AP FACT CHECK: Pope isn't seeking Islam, Christianity merger

Pope Francis celebrates a new year's Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis celebrates a new year's Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

A widely shared story that claimed Pope Francis called for merging Islam and Christianity is false.

The story quotes Francis as telling a Vatican audience: "Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths."

Another quote it attributes to Francis: "We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now."

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke tells The Associated Press the quotes are "invented."

An internet search reveals the fake quotes and various incarnations of the story have been shared by numerous websites since at least 2015.