Pope Francis likes to … er, pontificate on a number of subjects that are outside of his area of expertise. For example, he seems to think that climate change is the number one issue facing the Church. As I recall, he believes that climate control can be achieved by eliminating fossil fuels — a step that would plunge much of the Third World even deeper into poverty.
Another subject about which he has pontificated is Islam, though he seems to know next to nothing about the topic. Of course, it’s not the main business of a pope to have a thorough understanding of Islam; but given the 1,400 years of conflict between Islam and Christianity, one would hope that he had more than a passing acquaintance with the theology and history of Islam.
This seems especially the case today. Not since the Armenian genocide of a century ago have so many Christians lived in fear of Islam. Christian villages and Christian churches are regularly burned to the ground in Nigeria by Muslim terrorists and tribesmen. Bombings and burnings of churches at the hands of Muslims have become a common occurrence in Egypt, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Uganda and even in France, where thousands of churches have been desecrated or damaged by fire. And last week four students were killed and 50 injured in an explosion during Mass at the University of Mindanao in the Philippines.
According to police, the bombing was carried out by an Islamic terrorist group with ties to ISIS. Pope Francis assured his prayers for the victims of the attack, but as is his custom in such circumstances, he said nothing about the victimizers. This may be because Sheik Ahmed al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, made it known to Francis early in his pontificate that dialogue between the Vatican and Al-Azhar could be resumed only as long as a “red line” was not crossed. The red line was any criticism of Islam. The dialogue was terminated in the first place because Pope Benedict had crossed the line by criticizing Egypt for not protecting Christians from attacks.
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