President Trump and Pope Francis held a half-hour private meeting at the Vatican on Wednesday. Despite their sharp differences on climate change, redistribution of wealth, the handling of refugees and other key global issues, the two men were at least outwardly cordial. Both clearly wanted to avoid anything that could be perceived as confrontational, which had characterized remarks each had made about the other on prior occasions. However, Pope Francis used the occasion of the meeting to deliver a message to President Trump about the importance of remaining committed to the fight against climate change. He even decided to give the president a copy of his 2015 encyclical on saving the environment.
The meeting occurred only two days after the horrific suicide bombing in Manchester, England that claimed at least 22 lives, including an 8 year old girl, and injured many more. Yet fighting against the foremost evil of our day, Islamic terrorism, did not appear to be foremost on Pope Francis’s mind at his meeting with President Trump. A message had been previously issued in Pope Francis’s name, stating that he was “deeply saddened” by the “barbaric attack” in Manchester and extending his condolences. However, it is the fight against climate change that remains his top concern, which is of little comfort to the survivors and families grieving over their loved ones killed or injured in the Manchester slaughter. The same is true about those who suffered from the Islamic terrorist slaughter at a Coptic Christian church in northern Egypt on Palm Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
“With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” ISIS declared in a boastful statement. ISIS threatened more attacks to come against “the worshippers of the Cross and their allies, by Allah’s permission.” Children specifically will be targeted. A May 4th article entitled “The Ruling on the Belligerent Christians” previewed what lay ahead, declaring that the “blood” of women and children “is not protected” since they have not embraced Islam.
The Middle East and “the protection of Christian communities” did come up during the meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump, according to a statement released by the Vatican. However, they may well have been talking past each other.
When the Pope thinks of Christian communities, he tends to focus on what he considers to be the compassionate duty of Christians to reach out to the poor, including to care for the world’s many refugees and other migrants. Indeed, in February 2016, Pope Francis sharply criticized then candidate Trump for his views on immigration. “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the Pope said. On another occasion, speaking to Catholics and Lutherans in Germany last October, Pope Francis said, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help…”
Pope Francis has acknowledged the “serious harm to the Christian communities in Syria and Iraq, where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed.” However, he has failed to single out for condemnation those responsible for such suffering and their animating ideology – radical Islamic terrorists, whose hateful ideology is rooted in their literal reading of the Koran and Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions. Instead, in the spirit of moral relativism so prevalent today, Pope Francis has declared: “There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.”
Terrorism, according to Pope Francis, feeds on “fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration.” End economic inequality, the Pope believes, and voilà – love replaces hatred and terrorism gives way to peace. “This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting,” he declared. In the Pope’s reckoning, Christian minorities will be safe if we can just all agree to get along and share the wealth.
President Trump, on the other hand, is a realist. He recognizes the clear and present danger to Christian communities, particularly in the Middle East, from genocide committed by Islamic terrorists. These terrorists are not especially motivated by poverty. Indeed, some have been very well-off, including the late Osama bin Laden. As President Trump realizes, they are motivated by their hateful supremacist radical Islamic ideology, which spurs them on to attack the “Crusaders” wherever they can be found. They seek to make their fundamentalist form of Islam the only legitimate religion in the world. The rest of us either have to convert, pay a tax to live as a dhimmi, or die.
In a major speech on terrorism that Donald Trump delivered last August while running for the presidency, he described the atrocities committed in the name of “the hateful ideology of Radical Islam.” These atrocities included, he said: “Children slaughtered, girls sold into slavery, men and women burned alive. Crucifixions, beheadings and drownings. Ethnic minorities targeted for mass execution. Holy sites desecrated. Christians driven from their homes and hunted for extermination. ISIS rounding-up what it calls the ‘nation of the cross’ in a campaign of genocide.”
This genocide is a product of fundamentalist Islam-inspired ideology, which cannot be fought “with love,” as Pope Francis would like us to believe. Nor would the West’s “warm human welcome” and “authentic hospitality” to all refugees provide “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism,” as Pope Francis would also like us to believe.
Again, President Trump is a realist. His policies towards refugees, which Pope Francis evidently thinks are heartless, aim to protect Americans from jihadists seeking to enter the United States from the most terrorist-prone countries in the world. The president sought to reverse Barack Obama’s_ discrimination_ _against_ Christian refugees – the truly persecuted victims of radical Islamic genocide in the Middle East – and was called an Islamophobe and worse for his efforts. Pope Francis should be standing up for what President Trump tried to accomplish in this regard. But he hasn’t. In fact, the Vatican expressed concern about President Trump’s first executive order suspending travel and entry of refugees from certain countries, which had included a provision providing preferential treatment for persecuted religious minorities such as Christians.
President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II successfully worked together, projecting military and spiritual power respectively, to defeat the evil of their day – communism and the Soviet Union. The evil of our day is radical Islamic terrorism, not climate change. Will Pope Francis follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul and work with President Trump to help save Christians and other civilized people from this evil source of mass slaughter? Based on his record so far, it is doubtful, but we shall have to wait and see.
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