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Pope Francis on “the religion of peace”

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 20, 2015

In Evangelii Gaudium, a sprawling manifesto outlining his “vision” of the Church, Pope Francis makes this claim concerning Islam:  “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.

Really?  One must ask: By what authority does Francis declare who are the “true followers of Islam” and what constitutes “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran”?  The Pope has teaching authority regarding Catholic faith and morals; he is not an Imam nor an exegete of the Koranic suras

What the Pope is competent to do is to declare that the religion invented by Muhammad, which denies the divinity of Christ, is false and that its adherents are deceived. Thus declared Pope Pius XI when he commanded the entire Church to pray on the Feast of Christ the King: “Be Thou King of all those who even now sit in the shadow of idolatry or Islam, and refuse not Thou to bring them into the light of Thy kingdom.” 

Like liberal commentators in the media, Francis attempts to acquit Islam of the charge that, by its very nature as a religion spread by conquest down through the centuries, it foments violence and persecution of “infidels” wherever it attains temporal power. Francis would have it that the violence associated with Islam is limited to “episodes of violent fundamentalism” involving a few fanatics — whatever he means by “fundamentalism.”  But how is it that he never seems to notice that the juridical frameworks of Muslim nations with established governments, not a few fanatics, routinely engage in systematic, state-sponsored violence and persecution toward those who “insult Islam” or dare to convert from Islam to Christianity? 

It was not a few fanatics who are not “true followers of Islam” but rather the government of Pakistan that sentenced Asia Bibi to death for “insulting the Prophet” — a sentence upheld by Pakistan’s highest court.  Francis has done nothing to save her, although even the Russian Orthodox patriarch has called for her release, and Benedict XVI called for her pardon by Pakistan’s President.

It was not a few fanatics but rather the government of Sudan that sentenced Meriam Ibrahim to death for converting to Christianity and jailed her to await her execution, which was to take place after she gave birth to her unborn child in prison.   She was freed only after a storm of international protest to which Francis contributed not a single word (although he did pose with her for photos in the Vatican after her release).

Nor was it a few fanatics who sentenced Raif Badawi to 1000 lashes, to be administered in installments of fifty over 20 weeks, plus ten years in prison, merely for operating a blog site critical of Islam. The second batch of 50 lashes had to be postponed because the poor man has not yet healed sufficiently to be lashed some more.  This barbaric punishment was imposed by the government of Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s richest and most developed states. Amnesty International reports that in 2009 the Saudi government executed at least 109 people for offenses such as “blasphemy and apostasy.”  Here, too, Francis has nothing to say. 

How about Kuwait, where blasphemy against the Sunni version of Islam is punishable by death?  And what of the Islamic world in general, in which flogging, imprisonment and death are commonly imposed for offenses ranging from insulting the Islamic religion, to blasphemy against “Allah,” to adultery.  As for adultery, in Islamic nations no one heeds Our Lord’s counsel that he who is without sin should cast the first stone; rather, the legal barbarism that preceded the Gospel persists to this day in Islamic legal systems.

Is Francis prepared to tell the Islamic governments of Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere that their ministers and the Imams who support them are not “true followers of Islam” and that their reading of the Koran is not “authentic”?  Here’s a thought: Perhaps the Muslims who control these governments and the Muslim clerics of those countries know better than Francis what “authentic” Islam is. Perhaps they have demonstrated what authentic Islam is by the laws and institutions they have erected to enforce the dictates of that man-made religion.

That “authentic Islam” is not, and never has been, a “religion of peace” but rather quite the opposite is why Our Lady appeared precisely at the village of Fatima, named after a Muslim princess who became a Catholic following the reconquest of the Muslim-dominated regions of Portugal by Christian forces in the 12th century. In fact, Princess Fatima married the very knight who had captured her, taking the Christian name Oreana, for which the nearby Portuguese town of Ourém is named.

There is only one “religion of peace” on the face of the earth.  It is the religion founded by the Prince of Peace, whose Mother came to bring peace to the world in the name and by the power of the very Son whose divinity Islam denies as it puts people to death for embracing Him.

Instead of acting as a defender of Islam, Francis ought to defend the one and only religion established by God Himself — established by Him in the flesh precisely to dispel what Pius XI so rightly called the “shadow of idolatry or Islam.” That defense ought to involve doing at long last what Our Lady of Fatima came to earth to prescribe nearly a century ago at the very place named after a princess delivered from Islam’s darkness: the Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart.