Pope Francis, terminally naïve about Islam, believes he has a true understanding of the faith based partly on the reassurances given him by his new friend, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. “War is deceit,” says Muhammad in a famous hadith, and Al-Tayeb has been cheerfully deceiving the Pope every chance he gets. Pope Francis has learned a lot from Al-Tayeb. He insists in his new book, Non Sei Solo: Sfide, Risposte, Speranze (You Are Not Alone: Challenges, Answers, Hopes), that “either you are a terrorist or you are a Muslim.” A “true” Muslim, he thinks, cannot be a terrorist. No one has pointed out to the Pope that Muhammad himself says in another hadith that “I have been made victorious through terror.” (Bukhari 4:52.220) And Muhammad is the Perfect Man and the Model of Conduct, whose behavior is to be emulated by Muslims.
Islam talks about peace, all right — the peace that will prevail once Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere. Until then war must be made on the Infidels, who when conquered must be either killed, or made to convert to Islam, or to accept the inferior status of dhimmis, enduring a host of social, political, and economic disabilities, including payment of the extortionate jizyah tax. In his infinite wisdom, the Pope has declared on many occasions, and in his latest book, too, that “Islam, in truth, is a religion of peace and the majority of its members are peaceful.” He’s wrong, of course. He need only look around the world at the Muslim terror groups that have been waging war against Infidels, and even against less fanatical Muslims, in recent years: the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Boko Haram, Al-Shebaab, and so many more. Muslims have committed more than 44,000 terror attacks around the world since 9/11. The Qur’an is filled with verses about violence and waging war on Infidels. The Believers are instructed to “kill them [the Infidels] wherever you find them” (Qur’an 2:191, 4:89, cf. 9:5). But one has the distinct impression that the Pope has never read the Qur’an. Why should he bother to do so, when such authoritative experts on Islam like Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb assure him that Islam is all about peace?
Given the Pope’s affection for Islam, it is not surprising that he has been circumspect in his remarks on the atrocities carried out by Hamas on October 7. More on his failure to forthrightly condemn those attacks, which is risking the Vatican’s relations with the Jewish world, can be found here: “The Vatican is risking its relationship with the Jewish world,” by Vittorio Mascarini, JNS, November 16, 2023:
Relations between Israel and the Vatican have become tense in recent weeks.
In the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, an ecumenical group of Christian leaders that includes the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, issued a joint statement in which they made no explicit mention of the Hamas atrocities. They included only a vague condemnation of any act that targets civilians.
The Israeli embassy to the Holy See criticized the statement’s “immoral linguistic ambiguity,” which failed to be clear about “what happened, who were the aggressors and who the victims. … It is especially unbelievable that such a sterile document was signed by people of faith.”
This controversy is only the latest in the fraught history of Israel-Vatican relations, which were officially established in Dec. 1993. Besides the Catholic Church’s historical antisemitism, the Vatican was long reluctant to formally recognize Israel for several reasons: Israel did not have internationally recognized borders, the status of Jerusalem and access to its holy sites had not been internationally guaranteed, and Catholics and their institutions were, the Church claimed, not adequately protected under Israeli law.
In addition, the Vatican had concerns about the treatment of Palestinians in the disputed territories and feared that relations with Israel could have negative repercussions for Catholics in Islamic countries.
This may explain why, to date, Pope Francis has not labelled Hamas a terrorist organization and has not met with families of Israeli hostages. The latter has not gone unnoticed, especially because the families were received by many leading national figures, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
According to the Catholic news site Cruxnow, the pontiff’s behavior can be explained as “positioning the Vatican potentially to play a mediating and peace-making role.” In addition, “The bulk of the Christian population in the Holy Land is Arab and Palestinian, so Middle Eastern bishops and clergy tend to be strong supporters of the Palestinian cause.”
Given the deplorable treatment of Israel by the Vatican — of which the failure to condemn Hamas is just the latest example, it is doubtful that Jerusalem would accept the Vatican as a mediator between the Jewish state and those who would destroy it.
Moreover, Cruxnow sees a historic shift underway in terms of the Vatican’s interfaith priorities: “Since the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, Judaism has been the Church’s primordial relationship, unquestionably the highest priority in inter-religious dialogue. Under history’s first pope from the developing world, that’s no longer necessarily the case, as other relationships, especially the dialogue with Islam, have become at least an equally compelling perceived priority.”
Given this, it is not surprising that, since war broke out, Pope Francis has spoken with numerous world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, but there are no reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been among them.
Wouldn’t you think that after the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust, the Pope would have wanted to speak with the leader of the Jewish state, if only to express his solidarity and understanding? But though the Pope has spoken with many world leaders about the ongoing war in Gaza, he has apparently snubbed the Israeli President. How does he hope to ever be a mediator if he will not talk to the Israeli prime minister?
The larger Catholic world has shown equal ambivalence towards the war. Among Eastern Catholic leaders, the Latin Catholic and Eastern churches in communion with Rome have issued what Israel deems a lukewarm and insufficient condemnations of Hamas. Their first communiqué, issued on Oct. 8, contained a generic statement “against any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality.” The next, on Oct. 13, decried the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for de-escalation. It singled out only Israel in connection with humanitarian issues….
Instead of deploring the Hamas atrocities, the Eastern Catholic leaders uttered a generic condemnation “against any acts that target civilians.” They were afraid of the Muslim reaction if they singled out Hamas — as they should have — which would, however, make the lives of Catholics in the Arab countries more difficult. And just like Pope Francis, they did not mention the 240 hostages held by Hamas, or call for their release.
The Pope has to understand that the Jews of Israel now deserve his unambiguous support as they fight to destroy a murderous enemy that has pledged not only to destroy the single Jewish state and replace it with a twenty-third Arab one, but to kill Jews everywhere. No moral equivalency should be allowed. And he must also denounce, as he has not yet done so, the tidal wave of antisemitism, prompted in part by the war in Gaza, that threatens to engulf much of the world. He needs first to unambiguously denounce Hamas and all those who support the terror group. But will he? The signs from this Pope, who believes “Islam is all about peace,” are not good.
So far, Pope Francis has been weighed and found wanting.