Today in the Palm Sunday liturgy, Pope Francis lamented regarding the manner with which the European community has failed to accept Islamic migrants into their communities. Specifically, the Holy Father mentioned the great indifference of nations towards Islamic refugees fleeing from war, poverty and the dangers of radical sects of Islam throughout the Middle East. Comparing the situation in Europe to the same situation that Christ experienced when he was alienated by those closest to him as he journeyed to his destiny on Good Friday.
While it is an interesting analogy Pope Francis presents when offering the persecuted Islamic faithful as reflecting the destiny of Christ during the last week of his earthly ministry it is a superfluous understanding of the realities of the threats that radical Islam presents to Europe and the entire world. The ideological understanding of Islam does not permit a coexistence with Christianity, Judaism or Western nations as part of their geopolitical world view. The Islamic growth throughout the European Union and throughout the rest of the world, seeks radical submission from the nations to which they are migrating, as a theocratic notion of Islamic Manifest Destiny that is incompatible with social and cultural values of western civilization.
In addition to the extremist tactics that accompany followers of radical Islam is an unqualified disregard towards other monotheistic faiths, namely those of Christianity and Judaism. From a historical perspective, the conflicts that fueled the rise of the Crusades in the Holy Land are the seminal foundation for the global incompatibilities we experience with Islam in our contemporary reality of western life that is primarily rooted in secular values, with concession of acceptance to Judeo Christian beliefs. Islam, while monotheistic presents an absolute theocracy for its believers with little consideration towards human rights and individual freedoms of choice and conscience. While Pope Francis echoes the teachings of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in recommending a peaceful coexistence with Islam, Pope Francis’ observations fail to incorporate the terrorism that has accompanied radical Islam as it has reemerged since the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York on September 11, 2001. The Islamic faith in harmony with the great monotheistic religions of Christianity and Judaism characterized by Nostra Aeate in 1965 no longer reflects the current manifestations of the Islamic faith, much to the chagrin of Pope Francis and the rest of the western world. The Second Vatican Council in considering the situation regarding a peaceful coexistence with Islam did not foresee the rise of radical Islam that exists in the 21st century and the document Nostra Aeate clearly illustrates how the Church in the 21st century needs to amend and update its understanding of Islamic culture and values:
“The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 1:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2Co 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life.
“The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.
“The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth (Cf. St. Gregory VII, Letter III, 21 to Anazir [Al-Nasir], King of Mauretania PL, 148.451A.), who has spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, his Virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason, they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.
“Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.”
“Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion. Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to ‘conduct themselves well among the Gentiles’ (1P 2:12) and if possible, as far as depends on them, to be at peace with all men (cf. Rm 12:18), and in that way to be true sons of the Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt 5:45).”
Christianity in the Middle East is on the brink of capitulation to radical Islam and the entire world is engaged in a global war on terrorism that is motivated by extremist Muslims that reject any symbiotic relationship with Christianity. Instead of harmony, radical Islam is committed to the destruction of beliefs contrary to the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings and the persecution of peaceful followers of Islam is indicative of the severity of the Islamic threat to Europe and the rest of the Western World. Western allies have attempted through various means and taken every opportunity to placate the Islamic extremists, however there has been no reciprocal olive branch offer towards persecuted Christians in the Middle East and every other territory within the sphere of radical Islamic jihad. For Pope Francis to make an intentional comparison between Christ and his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the influx of Islamic refugees that are now overwhelming western Europe in the same manner of Christ’s experience and destiny on Good Friday indicates clearly that the Holy Father does not comprehend the gravity of the Islamic migration for Europe.
While the Islamic refugees are unfortunately victims of the same radical extremists that the global war against terrorism is fighting, there is a larger struggle that is emerging. The larger struggle emerging is the totalitarianism of radical theocratic Islam taking root in Europe and displacing western civilization and its Judeo-Christian traditions as Islamic plunder. The emergence of a Muslim world view in Europe and throughout the world is quite possibly the most dangerous political proposition since the emergence of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe after the Second World War until the late 20th century. Ideological nuances that distinguish Islam as a sympathetic monotheistic faith with Christianity and Judaism are eliminated with the emergence of Islamic jihad on the part of radical extremists.
Granted, Pope Francis’ world view is influenced by theology and speculative aspirations that the world’s conflicts can be solved through unilateral acceptance and tolerance between all of the world’s faiths and peoples. In a perfect world, this indeed would be a realistic understanding of a global vision. However, Christians are being martyred in the Holy Land, radical Islamic militants are attacking venues in Paris, London, New York City and countless other outposts throughout the continent of Europe and worldwide. It is unfortunately a reality that the influx of refugees migrating into Europe as a result of genocide at the hands of militant Muslims, intent on destroying western society.
The emergence of an unstable Islamic presence throughout the world sets the stage for a cataclysmic reaction between two societies that are diametrically in opposition to each other’s social, political and religious expressions of everyday life. While Pope Francis might have a functional comprehension of the differences that afflict our opposing societies, it doesn’t appear that the political and social realities of a growing Islamic presence throughout Europe and the western world are part of Francis’ pragmatic comprehension of Islam’s threat to global harmony and universal peace.
Perhaps Pope Francis is best served by revisiting his predecessor’s commentary delivered at the University of Regensburg, in which Pope Benedict XVI accurately diagnosed Islam as a religion inherently flawed by fanaticism. Pope Benedict rightly predicted the rise of ISIS, Islamic extremists engaged on a bloody campaign to retake the Holy Land, and brutality and bloodshed that has horrified the world all in the name of Islam. Despite the firestorm that followed the Regensburg address by Pope Benedict XVI, it could now be considered prophetic in its insights and examination of the Muslim psyche.
While Pope Francis makes comparisons between Christ and Islamic refugees on Palm Sunday, the words of Pope Benedict are far more resounding for an understanding of radical Islam in a world ravaged by ISIS in the Middle East and in sporadic terrorist attacks. Pope Benedict XVI pursued the academic’s understanding of the incompatibilities between Islam with Christianity as a factor to consider when developing a comprehensive appreciation for Islam. His hermeneutics regarding the differences of the Arabic, “agl” (Arabic word for intellect,) and,” naql”, (Arabic word for tradition) were indeed astute observations of the differences between the Arabic mind and that of western civilization.
Pope Benedict, unlike his successor boldly understood the great polarities of not only faith, but also those of intellect and tradition that divide Eastern and Western thought. The speech delivered at Regensburg should be revisited in order to understand more completely the great complexities the Islamic resurgence presents to Europe and the rest of the world. While we are reviewing this event of Joseph Ratzinger’s papacy as Benedict XVI, we also need to respectfully say…
Pope Benedict you were right all along!