The Vatican Sides With Islam, Not Christians
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan resigned following a deal last week that ended fierce fighting with Islamic Azeri forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In what has been nothing else but an Islamic jihad against Christian Armenians at the behest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ethnic Armenian villagers in Nagorno-Karabakh set their houses on fire before fleeing to Armenia on the eve of a deadline that will see parts of the territory handed over to Azerbaijan as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Residents of the Kalbajar district in Azerbaijan that was controlled by ethnic Armenians for decades began a mass exodus this week after it was announced Azerbaijan would regain control on Sunday. While Pope Francis condemned the fighting, there has yet to have been a clear and public statement from the Vatican on how Armenians Christians have been victimized by Islamists.
Siding with Muslims on Charlie Hebdo
This past October, as the Islamic world celebrated the birth of their Prophet Muhammad, a Tunisian migrant stormed inside the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greatest) as he killed three people; two of the victims were decapitated. Just a couple of weeks prior, Samuel Paty, a history teacher in a suburb of Paris, was beheaded by a Muslim in reaction to Paty’s showing caricatures of Muhammed to his students as a sing of freedom of speech.
Pope Francis, while denouncing the attacks in France as barbarous, refused to acknowledge that they had anything to do with Islam, notwithstanding the Quranic tenet that calls for the killing of anyone who questions Allah, his Prophet or Islam:
And if you could but see when the wrongdoers are in the overwhelming pangs of death while the angels extend their hands, [saying], “Discharge your souls! Today you will be awarded the punishment of [extreme] humiliation [death] for what you used to say against Allah other than the truth and [that] you were, toward His verses, being arrogant.” — Sura 6, 93
Speaking on behalf of the pope on the Nice slaughters, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, in a statement to reporters, said:
“It’s a moment of pain, in a time of confusion. Terrorism and violence must never be tolerated. Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolations, such as the house of the Lord. The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the grieving Catholic community.”
Saudi Arabia’s senior council of clerics issued a statement saying that it condemned the killings, but indicated that this was only expected since defamation of the Prophet Muhammad only serves extremists who want to spread hatred.
This certainly appears to be the current Vatican position under the pontificate of Pope Francis. In his latest encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Bishop of Rome berated Christians — and no one else — for “destructive forms of fanaticism…[using] verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication…[that are nothing other than] defamation and slander.” (n. 46)
Five years ago, twelve staff members of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris were killed for printing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims found offensive. The Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, blasted a series of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as “blasphemous.” And when the satirical journal reprinted the “controversial caricatures of Muhammad” just over a month ago, Catholic jurist Giuseppe della Torre — who happened to be one of my canon law professors at the Pontifical Lateran University — blasted the Charlie Hebdo saying:
“[I]t is not lawful for anyone to offend the legitimate and deepest of others, starting with family affections.”
As Muslim mobs raged in anger against the cartoons, Pope Francis replied by saying that there were limits to offending and ridiculing the faiths and beliefs of others:
“It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. Each religion has its dignity. I cannot make fun of it.”
The paradox to all of this is that Pope Francis and most cardinals and bishops have been relatively silent in defending our Christian faith when the same Charlie Hebdo magazine printed perverse caricatures mocking Jesus Christ.
For those who may not know, all in the name of freedom of speech, the secular and atheist satirical journals has printed caricatures that depict the Lord on the Cross saying: “Je suis une célébrité…sortez-moi de là!” (I’m a celebrity, get me out of here); there also another one portraying the Three Divine Persons engaged in sexual intercourse with each other.
Where were the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy on this?
Praise for Jihadist Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb
In his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis acknowledged the merits of an avowed Islamist, Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt — the oldest and most prestigious Sunni institution for Islamic scholarship — who advocates sharia (Islamic) law.
In a television interview on June 16, 2016, el-Tayeb stated, “The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in sharia. An apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed.”
There is no record that el-Tayeb ever retracted previous antisemitic remarks against Israel and the Jews, including the following:
“See how we suffer today from global Zionism and Judaism, whereas our peaceful coexistence with the Christians has withstood the test of history. Since the inception of Islam 1,400 years ago, we have been suffering from Jewish and Zionist interference in Muslim affairs. This is a cause of great distress for the Muslims.
“The Quran said it and history has proven it: ‘You shall find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists.’ This is the first part. The second part is: ‘You shall find the closest in love to the believers to be those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ The third part explains why the Christians are ‘the closest in love to the believers,’ while the Jews and the polytheists are the exact opposite.”
If these words do not incite hatred toward Jews, or others, what will?
Defender of Islam
In July 2017, Pope Francis received a noteworthy honor when el-Tayeb thanked him for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.” For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome was heralded as a “defender of Islam”
This is quite a different tone, to say the least, from previous Roman Pontiffs, like Pope Callixtus III (1455-1458), who instituted the ringing of church bells at noon so that Christians remembered to pray for the Crusaders to Belgrade and in perpetual memory of their victory in 1456. He vowed in 1455 to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East.”
Francis had stated in the past that terrorism “is not due to religion… it is due rather to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts.” Author William Kilpatrick asked, if this is the case, “how is it that so many Muslims in so many different parts of the world interpret Quranic texts in exactly the same way — namely, as a justification for jihad?” For example, how would a Muslim interpret:
“Then, when the sacred months are over, kill the idolaters wherever you find them.” (Sura 9, 5)?
“There are over a hundred similar texts in the Quran. By contrast, there are very few texts of the love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself variety.”
The founder and the heralds of the Islamic religion have been at war with the Judeo-Christian civilization since its inception. Both Catholics and non-Catholics alike expect a pope and Church hierarchy to come to their defense when persecuted, especially if they are Christians. That any Christian leader, more so a pope, would be hailed a “defender of Islam” by a universally known jihadist speaks wonders. “Can you imagine,” as Islamic scholar Robert Spencer stated, “any Muslim leader ever being called a ‘defender of Christianity?’”
If there was never any public condemnation by Vatican officials on the caricatures that mocked Jesus in the French satire journal, it should therefore not surprise us why, despite Armenians being amongst the first to historically embrace Christianity, were left to fend for themselves when they desperately needed the help of the leading voice for Christians in the world.
Let us pray that those Christians and non-Christians who have been victimized by Islamists will be the ones to take up the cause to defend society against future jihadist incursions.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.