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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican newspaper has criticized French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo for depicting God as a Kalashnikov-carrying killer, saying it was "woeful" and disrespectful to true believers of all faiths.
The cover was an anniversary edition, commemorating the attacks a year ago when Islamist militants killed 12 during an assault on the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in Paris. The cartoon on the cover shows an angry God with blood on his hands and a rifle strapped to his back.
"One year later, the assassin is still on the run," the headline says.
The Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano accused Charlie Hebdo of looking to "manipulate" faith.
"Behind the deceptive flag of an uncompromising secularism, the French weekly once again forgets what religious leaders of every faith have been urging for ages - to reject violence in the name of religion and that using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy," it wrote in a short commentary.
"Charlie Hebdo's move shows the sad paradox of a world which is increasingly sensitive about being politically correct to the point of being ridiculous ... but does not want to recognize or respect believers' faith in God, regardless of their religion."
Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical covers lampooning political and religious leaders, lost many of its top editorial staff when Islamist militants broke into an editorial meeting on Jan. 7, 2015, and opened fire.
After that attack, Pope Francis took issue with Charlie Hebdo's anti-religious stance.
"You can't provoke, you can't insult the faith of others, you can't make fun of faith," he told reporters during an Asian tour. The Vatican later issued a statement that said the pope's comments were not intended as a justification for the attacks.
An editorial released before publication of Wednesday's special edition said the magazine would continue despite religious extremists who wanted to muzzle it.
"They won't be the ones to see Charlie die - Charlie will see them kick the bucket," it said.
Writing by Crispian Balmer