Pope Francis Reaches Out To Islam -- And Why It Matters

On Friday, March 22, 2013, Pope Francis did something remarkable.  In honour of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, he reached out toward the Muslim people in the name of fighting poverty and building bridges of peace.  To do this, he cited a phrase used by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which defined his papacy.  With many of the world's leaders in audience, Pope Francis stated...
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth...   In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. 
Read the full address here.
THUD!  There it is.  We now have the whole mission of Pope Francis' pontificate laid out before us, and it is an uncomfortable one.  He will work by any means necessary, including cooperation with Islam, to fight physical poverty in the poor developing world. Meanwhile, he will simultaneously work, even to the point of cooperating with Islam, to fight spiritual poverty in the rich industrialised world.  Is this uncomfortable?  It should be.  He intends it to be.  However, we should be careful not to jump to conclusions.  Pope Francis is a staunchly orthodox Catholic, and everything he says should be interpreted in a strictly Catholic sense.

Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI are two sides of the same coin, and their relationship with the pontificate of Pope John Paul II is now impossible to deny.  The mission of Pope John Paul II was to defeat communism with faith.  He accomplished this not only in Poland, but on the world scene in general, by providing a consistent obstacle to Marxist ideologies arising in Europe and Latin America.  The source of conflict between the East and West during that time was ideological.  It was Marxism that drove it, whether it be in the form of godless communism in the Soviet Union and China, or the white-washed Christianised version called "Liberation Theology" in Latin America.  The result was always the same.  Faith in God played second-fiddle to the cult of the omnipotent state!  The Church was expected to bow the knee to the government, thus diminishing her role as the harbinger of salvation to the lost and relief for the suffering.

The mortal blow to classic communism was delivered on December 8, 1991, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception according to the Catholic liturgical calendar, when the Soviet Union was dissolved.  Communism still exists of course, and we are seeing it rear its ugly head in many places, but the biggest proponent of communism is dead, and so the devil has surely focused his attacks on Holy Mother Church elsewhere.  His new antagonist is the secular West.  That's right.  It's us!

Now that's a hard pill to swallow.  How can it be us?  When we look at the relentless attacks against Christians in Islamic nations, particularly by radical extremists hell bent on jihad, and when we look at the continual oppression of Christians in what remains of communist nations; how can anyone say that the secular West is the problem?

Well, I don't think anyone is saying that the secular West is THE problem.  Rather, it is the LATEST problem.  Persecution of Christians in Islamic nations has been going on for a very long time.  It is certainly intensifying in recent decades, but it's always been there.  Persecution of Christians in communist countries is the norm, and has always been a hallmark of communism.  There's nothing new there.  What is new is what's happening in the secular West, and it's a really bad kind of new.  For the last two centuries, the secular West has been a refuge for persecuted Christians around the world.  That is starting to change, and in its place, is arising a new kind of tyranny that not only demands the Church to bend the knee to a foreign moral paradigm, but a moral paradigm that itself justifies its own meddling in the poor developing world for the benefit of the rich industrialised world.

That new moral paradigm is called militant secularism, and it is characterised by a growing open hostility toward traditional Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in favour of moral relativism.  We see it develop in the insistence that religion must retreat from anything associated with the government, while simultaneously, the government advances everywhere, into every sphere of human existence: civics, education, charity, welfare and medicine.  We see it in the demands that religion must adopt the morality of relativism, particularly in areas related to: life, sex, marriage, gender, and family.  We see it in a willingness by certain Western governments to financially persecute, and possibly even legally prosecute, religious businesses and institutions that fail to adopt this new moral paradigm.  It is a moral paradigm promoted by the mainstream press and entertainment industry, indoctrinated into our youth through the universities and school systems, and ultimately enforced by the power of the government itself.  It is in every way a "tyranny" to people of faith; Christians, Muslims and Jews, but most especially Christians, who seem to be the primary target of this new moral paradigm, this new "tyranny of relativism," this emerging persecutor of the Church that is the secular Western world.

What Pope Francis has done here is remarkable, and is 100% consistent with his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II.  He has effectively drawn the battle lines.  His address to the leaders of the nations is warm and cordial.  The conflict is not with them personally, nor with their governments respectively, but rather with the ideology some of their governments and people are gradually embracing -- militant secularism.   It is this militant secularism that is a "tyranny of relativism" that attacks people of faith, most especially Christians, but not excluding Muslims and Jews.  The result is poverty!  This is manifested in the spiritual poverty of the rich industrialised nations, that leaves people without direction and purpose, thus condemning them to a future of endless materialism.  It is also manifested in the physical poverty of the poor developing nations, that leaves the people therein exploited and destitute, for the benefit of the rich.  He has called out militant secularism for what it is -- A FARCE!  It's a complete lie!  It claims a moral paradigm that is supposedly superior to all religions, but in practical reality, it is the most debase of all ideologies, on par with the hedonistic Paganism of antiquity.  It creates an image of morality, but it is a false image, that is clearly demonstrated by the spiritual and physical poverty abounding throughout the world today.  It is an idolatrous system that sets the practitioner up as a paragon of virtue, but in reality, he is a hedonistic tyrant.  The Muslims of the world have seen this developing trend in the West for some time, and while most have simply tried to live apart from it, some have openly rebelled in the form of senseless violence, thus giving the tyrants in the West more justification for their tyranny.  Some of these Muslims have made the egregious error of connecting Christianity to militant secularism, and this of course has fuelled their persecution of Christians in some places.  What they fail to understand is that militant secularism is rooted in Marxist ideology not Christianity, and that Christians themselves are suffering at the hands of militant secularism, just as they did under godless communism.  The persecution itself comes in a different form.  While communism sought to rid the world of Christians, secularism now seeks to rid the world of Christianity.  Which of the two is more insidious?  Are they not evil sisters?  Are they not the wicked witches of the East and West?  Some Muslims error in connecting the persecuted with the persecutor, and in this it would appear Pope Francis is beginning to set the record straight.  So the modern Franciscan dialogue with Islam begins.

In AD 1219, discouraged by the horrors and suffering of war, Saint Francis of Assisi left the camp of the crusaders besieging the Egyptian city of Damietta.  He crossed enemy lines to meet with the young Muslim Sultan of Egypt -- Malik al-Kamil.  As the story goes, the young sultan was very hospitable to Saint Francis and spent many days in dialogue with him.  Saint Francis naturally hoped the sultan would convert to Christianity, which of course would result in the instantaneous end of the war.  Legend has it that Saint Francis was even willing to risk immolating his own body with fire to prove the power of Christ to this young Muslim.  The sultan pleaded with Francis not to harm himself.  In the end however, the one who converted was not the sultan, but Saint Francis of Assisi, who learned that peace is possible with Muslims even outside of conversion.  He eventually returned home to his friary in Italy.  There he instituted certain reforms that allowed Franciscans to work together with Muslims, without constantly seeking their conversion.  From this comes the statement Saint Francis likely never said, but is often attributed to his life and ministry: "Evangelise always, and if necessary, use words."  This of course points to the corporate works of mercy often associated with the Franciscan way of life.  By our mercy and compassion, Jesus Christ will be made known to the unbaptised.

So Pope Francis here moves forward with this in mind.  The Muslims are not the natural enemy of Christians.  They never have been.  The conflict between Christianity and Islam is artificial and contrived, often motivated by people of neither faith who tend to benefit the most.  In our modern times, the only natural enemy of Christians is the same enemy we have in common with the Muslims.  It is the godless ideologies of communism and militant secularism that find their root in Marxism.  They have left Christian societies in spiritual poverty and Muslim societies in physical poverty.  Militant secularism, this "tyranny of relativism," must be resisted in the same way communism was resisted.  For their goals are one in the same.  This is something Christians, Muslims and yes even Jews, can work together toward.  For there is only one God, and God alone is sovereign.  He will not bend the knee to any government or ideology.  This much our three religions can agree on; and it is this very thing militant secularism, like her godless sister communism, fears the most.

Pope Francis is an ecumenist but he is not a syncretist.  He is a Catholic Christian through and through.  There is nothing in this cooperation with Islam that smacks of merging with Islam.  So the hysteria among Fundamentalists of all stripes can cease.  Pope Francis was born a Catholic and he will die a Catholic.  He asks no more or less from all Catholic Christians.  When it comes to this "tyranny of relativism" however, this product of militant secularism in the West, this FARCE of a new moral paradigm; does it not threaten Christians and Muslims equally?  Abortion shows no partiality between Christian and Muslim babies.  Same-sex marriage threatens Muslim society just as much as Christian society.  Physical poverty in the name of rampant consumerism starves Christian children in Latin America just as it starves Muslim children in Africa and Asia.  Spiritual poverty threatens the Christian youth of Europe and North America, just as it does the Muslim youth in those same regions, as well as the wealthy in Arab nations.  The modern conflict between the Western world and the Muslim world is primarily driven by money (the flow of oil) not religion. Herein lies the greatest threat of our time, the threat of war.  We have already seen how this is playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the American sponsored uprisings (so-called "Arab Spring") in Egypt, Libya and Syria.  It's one disaster after another, not unlike the crusades nearly a thousand ago. The only difference is, these modern "crusades" have nothing to do with Christ nor Christianity.  They are driven entirely by secular interests.  Perhaps they would more accurately be called the "secularades."  Whatever we call them, the greatest conflict has yet to unfold, and this will only result in the greatest horror and poverty for all those involved.  It is in this time, the calm before the storm, that a pope named Francis crosses enemy lines to meet with the leaders of the Muslim world.  His hope and desire is to find common ground for working together to fight the poverty of this modern world, which was originally started by godless communism, and now continues under her wicked sister of militant secularism -- a tyranny of moral relativism that impoverishes everyone!


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Dialogue with Islam?! These murderous fanatics have been trying to wipe out Christianity for 1500 years. Pope Francis is a naïve naïf if he thinks he can dialogue with these people. They're Anti-Christian as the Jews. The only way to deal with both of them is to denounce their heresies, and stand firm against them spiritually, and if necessary, on the battlefield. Remember St. James, the patron saint of Spain is called Santiago Matamoros, (St. James, the Moor Slayer) not St. James the Moor Dialoguer.
Shane Schaetzel said…

Steve, how many Muslims do you actually know? I mean personally; how many do you know? I know quite a few, and none have tried to kill me.

I'm afraid your attitude toward Muslims is typical of many Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists who have been so amped up by the secular media that you're willing to go to war over it. Stop listening to the mainstream press and conservative talk radio. Stop listening to small cliques of Traditionalists who won't tolerate any other opinion that doesn't fit their template. They are poisoning your mind.

Are there radical Islamists in the world? Sure there are. We see their activity on the news, but they are a tiny minority. Is history full of examples where Muslims attacked Christians? Sure it is. That's what started the crusades. But condemning heresy over and over again, even to the point of spilling blood, does not make one more Christian.

Jesus Christ was surrounded by Pagans during his time on earth. The Pagans ruled over his people. They worshipped their gods in their presence. They oppressed his people. What did Jesus do? Did he stand on a housetop and condemn Paganism, ordering his followers to take up swords and drive them out of the land for their heresy? Indeed, there were many of his people who would have liked him to do that. Yet he did not. Instead, he would later commission his apostles to reach out to them with the gospel of truth and peace.

So what should our response be today? Should we follow the example of the crusaders or Christ? I'll follow the example of Christ, and I'll follow Pope Francis.
Shane, I do not listen to the mainstream media or talk radio for my information about Muslims. I read well researched books by scholars like Serge Trifkovic's The Sword Of The Prophet, and William Thomas Walsh's Phillip II, which has a lot of information about Islam. Also I'm a descendant of Morisco's on my father's side of the family, so I know a little bit 'moor' about this subject than the average Joe.

So you know a few Muslims and you think they're friendly. Shane, Muslims are taught to be deceptive in their dealings with non-Muslims. How do you know whether they're conning you or not?

I believe in outreach to Muslims via evangelism. However, since the demented prophet of Islam commanded war on all non-believers, we must also have a sword to defend ourselves against Islamic aggression. To do otherwise is to invite conquest.

Pope Francis is doing nothing new in his outreach to the Muslims. It's the same old tired dialoging nonsense that has failed time and time again. It fails because one side has the absolute truth, the other side a pack of lies. One can't dialogue with deceitful people. One can only expose their lies, preach the Gospel to them, and hope for conversions.
Shane Schaetzel said…
I apologise for my assumptions about your source of information. While it is true for many who live in my area, it is apparently not true for you.

I'm not sure what you think by the word "dialogue" with Muslims. Nobody is going to validate their doctrines. It would appear Pope Francis' only intention is to work together with them to fight poverty. I see nothing in this that is syncretist.

Am I to believe that every Muslim I encounter is intentionally trying to deceive me? I don't believe it. Some maybe, but certainly not all. That's not the world I choose to live in Steve. If you want to live there, then that's your business, but I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that every Muslim I encounter is secretly trying to trick me. That's just not my way.

The gospel truth I will always proclaim, and non-Catholics will come to it based upon its own merits. I dialogue with Muslims and Jews all the time, during the daily grind of stamping out disease and pestilence in the medical field. They know me and what I represent. There is no mistaking that. I know them, and what they represent. We may never convert each other, but we can (and do) work together for a common good, and a lot of people benefit from that. Who knows, if you ever get sick while driving through my neck of the woods, you might be one of them.
Shane, what do you know about taqiyya? That teaching allows a Muslim to lie to you if it will advance Islam or if it will protect him or his religion from danger. So maybe not every Muslim is trying to trick or lie to you, but the point is, their religion gives them that option. The problem is, which Muslim is lying to you?
Shane Schaetzel said…
Anybody can lie Steve, for any reason or no reason at all. You don't need a religion to tell you to do it. So that being said, which Christians are lying and which are not?

What it really comes down to is attitude and after all is said and done this has nothing to to with Muslims. It has to do with us - Christians - and what is our attitude toward our common man.

Thank you Steve for your contribution to this topic. Yours is an opinion that must be heard. You've made your case. Now it is time to let others comment.
Shane Schaetzel said…
For the benefit if other readers, here is the definition of Taqiyya (click here). It appears to be a loophole in Shia Islamic Law that allows a Muslim to deny his faith without penalty if his life or safety is in danger. It does not appear to be anything more than that. The term does not appear to exist in Sunni Islam.
Paul said…
Thanks for highlighting that specific passage: the most significant of his pontificate, in my opinion, to date.
The rabid secularists are our real enemy. They hate God. They use radical muslims to divide Christians from muslims so as to effectively be the sole "socio-political superpower" if we can make that term up. And thereby they continue to secularize the world toward indifference and hatred for God.
Pope Francis isn't buying the secularists false division.
And just like i don't buy the secularist division of catholics in the USA between political conservatives and liberals (why should i?), with Pope Francis and Catholic in the Ozarks i will unite with anyone who is against the secularists!
Paul said…
Shane, i have a few items that may be interesting on this topic.
There is a book by Cleon Skousen called "The Naked Capitalist" which followed his earlier book "The Naked Communist". The Capitalist book explicates how people in the communist party of the USA, when they were not sure what to do in a given situation, were to get their orders from powerful men in New York who were capitalists. These testimonies were from those who were communists at the time. These people learned what so many today naturally suspect: when it comes to materialists who have so much power running means of production, credit flow, commodities etc., those at the top don't give one hoot what the system they operate through is called. As long as they control these major sectors of the world economy, capitalist or communist has little meaning positively or negatively for them. Those who run these structures are what I call secularists, -they think they are gods akin to the way the Ceasars called themselves gods. I personally believe these clowns run today's show in the world, and i appreciate your labeling secularism as the greatest threat to justice in the world today. Of course Skousen was denounced by the FBI as an extremeist, but that didn't stop him from being appointed to the Council for National Policy think tank during the Reagan years. He was also known to advise Reagan during his presidency.

Regarding Islam, i also have a deep hope that God will do something great with them someday. Maybe my hope is greater than our Pope's in that I may hope too much but i'll give some reasons:
Mary converted the indians of central Mexico with a single image at Guadalupe (which means 'stone serpent trodden upon'). These people were horrible satanist types into all sorts of widespread human sacrifice. 10 million were converted in 10 years and the entire area was catholic in 100. And that was after decades of arduous work by heroic Franciscans had only netted about 10,000 conversions! Secondly, Mary appeared at Fatima which is a city named after Muhommed's daughter, after appearing at Lourdes which got its name from a Muslim military leader named Mirat who was in charge of guarding the Lourde's valley for Islam. Mirat converted to Catholicism and took the Christian name 'Loras' which is where the name 'Lourdes' comes from. He did this when Charlemagne was campaigning back north from Spain to France through the valley Lourdes was located in on the northern slopes of the Pyranees. It is a fascinating story that can be found online or at the beginning of Tan Book's edition of a biography of Bernadette of Lourdes.
It seems to me our Lady has her maternal eye on those Muslims whose Koran says she is the virgin of the prophet Jesus. Obviously, calling Jesus merely a prophet is a heresy that makes any true christian shudder with disgust.
But Mary, the great mother of our Savior, seems to have (in my estimation) some plans for their conversion and the eventual defeat of secularism.
what do you think of this article?

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