Posted tagged ‘Pope Benedict XVI’

The Pope’s Pilgrimage to Al-Azhar

April 27, 2017

The Pope’s Pilgrimage to Al-Azhar, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, April 27, 2017

“They cannot take the texts of the seventh century literally as they are in the Quran. He [the Pope] does not dare to say something like that because he doesn’t know the Quran well enough, and so on. So I understand his position, but it would be better to have a clearer and more frank discussion — with openness, but also with some realism.”

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During a meeting between the former Papal Nuncio to Cairo, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, and Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam warned Gobel that “speaking about Islam in a negative manner was a ‘red line’ that must not be crossed.” If there are any condemnations of violence against the Coptic Christians, they are likely to be articulated only by the Grand Imam and the Egyptian President.

If the Pope’s humble bearing is excessive, however, it might be interpreted even by peaceable Muslims as a submission. If Francis is asked by the Grand Imam to pray at al-Azhar’s mosque, that is a piety that el-Tayeb would not likely reciprocate in a Coptic Church in Egypt.

Facilitating the establishment of an Islamic-Christian relationship that excludes Judaism can only serve the Islamist goal of isolating Jews and Israel. Although relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar will improve in the near future, the honeymoon will not. The Grand Imam will doubtless protect his own theological power base and keep his distance from both the Vatican and the Egyptian regime.

The twin Palm Sunday bombings at Coptic Christian Churches by Islamic terrorists in Egypt, which killed 44 worshipers, draws attention to what is probably the principal reason for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Cairo on April 28-29. The Pontiff will likely seek the assistance of Egypt’s Muslim hierarchy to help protect Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the indigenous inhabitants of the country who now number about 9 million and constitute at least 10% of the population.

During his stay, Francis will meet with the Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb. Al-Azhar’s theological complex, which houses Islam’s oldest university, is considered the most influential center of Sunni Islam.

The Pope possibly hopes that the meeting with el-Tayeb will fully repair relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar. These were restored as a result of a letter sent by Pope Francis to the Grand Imam last year. The Papal letter was followed up by a visit to the Holy See by el-Tayeb in May 2016. Relations between the Holy See and al-Azhar had been severed in 2011 by el-Tayeb after he took offense at comments made by the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, on the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries.

Grand Imam el-Tayeb now appears more disposed towards normalizing relations with the Vatican, especially since his amicable visit to the Holy See in May 2016. Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam is likely to be more agreeable toward Francis than he was toward Benedict. This show of flexibility might possibly also be an effort by el-Tayeb to get in line with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s own call for reform within Islam. However, Al-Azhar, determined to maintain its authority over theological matters, has initiated no substantive, doctrinal reforms in response to President Sisi’s declaration. In fact, Al-Azhar has pushed back against attempts by some Muslim reformists who have suggested a more liberal policy concerning women’s rights, including the ability to divorce.

El-Tayeb, even if he accepted responsibility for protecting the Copts, may prove unable to prevent Islamic terrorist groups from targeting Egypt’s minority Christian population. The alleged cooperation between the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood makes it especially difficult for Cairo to prevent terrorist acts. Islamic terrorist cells in Alexandria and the Sinai Peninsula, where many of the attacks on Copts have occurred, act independently of Egypt’s political and religious leaders. The targeting of Christians by these groups may also be part of a larger objective to destabilize the regime of al-Sisi, who has promised security to Egyptians, particularly Coptic Christians. Radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS view the Copts as their enemies; many members of this Christian sect support the Sisi government.

It was, in any event, al-Sisi who invited Pope Francis to visit Egypt during the Egyptian president’s visit to the Vatican in November 2014. Anti-regime elements might well attempt to stage a spectacular terrorist incident during the Pontiff’s visit, particularly targeting Francis himself.

The Pope’s upcoming visit is being organized by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauron, who chairs the Pontifical Council of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Cardinal Tauron is, no doubt, cognizant of the “red line” laid down by the Grand Imam if the Vatican wishes to have amicable relations with the Muslim leadership. During a meeting between the former Papal Nuncio to Cairo, Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, and el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam warned him that “speaking about Islam in a negative manner was a ‘red line’ that must not be crossed.” However, given the Pope’s past reluctance to condemn radical Islamic concepts, it is unlikely that, during his visit to Egypt, he will depart from this cautious public posture. Comments, if any, by Pope Francis on Muslim violence against Christians will, no doubt, be diplomatic and muted. If there are any condemnations of violence against the Coptic Christians, they are likely to be articulated only by the Grand Imam and the Egyptian President.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis will, it appears, publicly demonstrate his solidarity with fellow Christians by championing the Coptic Pope Tawadros II during memorial services for the recently martyred Copts. Francis, who is known to be fond of Tawadros, might express his deep personal concern for the welfare of the Coptic Pope — who was celebrating Mass inside St. Mark’s Cathedral when the bomber detonated his explosives just outside.

Francis is apparently most anxious to bring Copts and Catholics closer together, in the hope that the Egyptian Church will ultimately formally reunite with the Holy See. The Coptic Church first split from Rome in 451 A.D. However, the Vatican maintains deep respect for the Egyptian Church, which was established by one of the four authors of the Gospels, St. Mark, in Alexandria as early as 42 A.D.[1]

Catholic Pope Francis greets Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II at the Vatican, on May 10, 2013. (Image source: News.va Official Vatican Network)

If the Pope’s humble bearing is excessive, however, it might be interpreted even by peaceable Muslims as submission. If Francis is asked by the Grand Imam to pray at al-Azhar’s mosque, that is a piety that el-Tayeb would not likely reciprocate in a Coptic Church in Egypt.

The public stance of the Vatican concerning Islam has been routinely cautious. The most recent example of the Pontiff’s less-than-direct criticism of Islamist violence is his April 22 statement at a prayer service paying tribute to 21st Century Christian Martyrs in Rome:

Francis said the legacy of modern-day martyrs “teaches us that with the strength of love, meekness, one can combat arrogance, violence, war, and with patience, achieve peace.”

A professor of Islamic Studies at the Pontifical Institute in Rome, Father Samir Khalil Samir, also an Egyptian, characterizes the Pope’s diplomatic approach to Muslims, “who are the second-most important group in the world, to have a dialogue and understanding.” Khalil adds:

“I think it’s important to say things with charity, with friendship, but to say things as they are: that it cannot continue like this; we have to rethink Islam. This is my vision. They cannot take the texts of the seventh century literally as they are in the Quran. He [the Pope] does not dare to say something like that because he doesn’t know the Quran well enough, and so on. So I understand his position, but it would be better to have a clearer and more frank discussion — with openness, but also with some realism.”

This clearly modulated posture was apparent during a session of the Geneva Center of Human Rights Advancement and Dialogue. The theme of the Geneva sessions was “Islam and Christianity: The Great Convergence.” The March 15 Conference, attended by Muslim and Christian delegates, studiously avoided key issues of doctrinal divergence, and stressed instead alleged areas of common interest. The key sponsors of the conference were Algeria, Pakistan, and Lebanon, all of which are Muslim majority countries. The only non-Muslim state sponsor of the Conference was Malta. One of the oft-repeated themes of the sessions in Geneva was the ‘feel-good’ concept of the ‘common Abrahamic root’ of Islam, Christianity and Judaism — although no representatives of the Jewish faith were invited to the conference. Statements by representatives of Christian churches seemed overly optimistic about the prospects of developing positive relationships with Islamic societies.

The failure to invite Jewish or Israeli representation by conference organizers was presumably not an oversight. This omission would be consistent with the UN Arab bloc’s objective of isolating Israel in an apparent effort to destroy and replace it. That campaign includes efforts by Arab states to marshal support at the United Nations for suffocating Israel through diplomatic subversion as well as through economic strangulation. Facilitating the establishment of an Islamic-Christian relationship that excludes Judaism can only serve the Islamist goal of isolating Jews and Israel.

After the visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, mass murders of Egyptian Copts are likely to continue. Although relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar will improve in the near future, the honeymoon will not. The Grand Imam will doubtless protect his own theological power base and keep his distance from both the Vatican and the Egyptian regime.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.


[1] Tradition has it that Mark founded the Church in Alexandria as early as 42 A.D. but some Coptic documents assert that Mark came to Alexandria for the first time in 61 A.D. after several missionary trips with St. Paul and St. Barnabas.

Dialogue between Vatican and al-Azhar to restart in April after five-year lull

October 22, 2016

Dialogue between Vatican and al-Azhar to restart in April after five-year lull, Jihad Watch

Why has there been this “five-year lull”? Because “Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican in 2011 to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.” What did Benedict say? Andrea Gagliarducci of the Catholic News Agency explains that after a jihad terrorist murdered 23 Christians in a church in Alexandria 2011, Benedict decried “terrorism” and the “strategy of violence” against Christians, and called for the Christians of the Middle East to be protected.

Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Ahmed al-Tayeb, whom Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican in May, was furious. He railed at Benedict for his “interference” in Egypt’s affairs and warned of a “negative political reaction” to the Pope’s remarks. In a statement, Al-Azhar denounced the Pope’s “repeated negative references to Islam and his claims that Muslims persecute those living among them in the Middle East.”

Benedict stood his ground, and that was that. But in September 2013, al-Azhar announced that Pope Francis had sent a personal message to al-Tayeb. In it, according to al-Azhar, Francis declared his respect for Islam and his desire to achieve “mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.” At the same time, Al Tayyeb met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel, and told him in no uncertain terms that speaking about Islam in a negative manner was a “red line” that must not be crossed.

So Pope Benedict condemned a jihad attack, one that al-Azhar also condemned, and yet al-Azhar suspended dialogue because of the Pope’s condemnation. Then Pope Francis wrote to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar affirming his respect for Islam, and the Grand Imam warned him that criticizing Islam was a “red line” that he must not cross. That strongly suggests that the “dialogue” that Pope Francis has now reestablished will not be allowed to discuss the Muslim persecution of Christians that is escalating worldwide, especially since an incidence of that persecution led to the suspension of dialogue in the first place.

What’s more, the Pope’s dialogue partner, al-Tayeb, has shown himself over the years to be anything but a preacher of peace, cooperation and mercy: he has justified anti-Semitism on Qur’anic grounds; and called for the Islamic State murderers of the Jordanian pilot to be crucified or have their hands and feet amputated on opposite sides (as per the penalty in Qur’an 5:33 for those who make war against Allah and his messenger or spread “mischief” in the land. Al-Azhar was also revealed to be offering free copies of a book that called for the slaughter of Christians and other Infidels.

This “dialogue” has not saved a single church from being burned or a single Christian from being massacred. And it never will. Instead, it is being used by the Catholic hierarchy as a club to silence those who speak out about the true cause and magnitude of contemporary Muslim persecution of Christians.

This Pope, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are betraying the Church, Judeo-Christian civilization, and the free world. If I am a “bad Catholic” for saying that, then it is morally preferable to being a “good” one.

“Leave them; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

pope-frances-tayeb-al-azhar

“Vatican-Muslim Dialogue to Restart in April, Vatican Says,” Associated Press, October 21, 2016:

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, Al-Azhar, are expected to formally reopen talks next year after a five-year lull….

The Vatican announcement Friday comes after Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, met at the Vatican in May and embraced. It marked a turning point after Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican in 2011 to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people.

The Vatican Submits to Islam (2006-2016)

October 16, 2016

The Vatican Submits to Islam (2006-2016), Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti, October 16, 2016

“[Pope Benedict XVI] has doubted publicly that it can be accommodated in a pluralistic society… and tempered his support for a programme of inter-religious dialogue run by Franciscan monks at Assisi. He has embraced the view of Italian moderates and conservatives that the guiding principle of inter-religious dialogue must be reciprocità. That is, he finds it naive to permit the building of a Saudi-funded mosque, Europe’s largest, in Rome, while Muslim countries forbid the construction of churches and missions.” — Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times.

In that lecture, Benedict did what in the Islamic world is forbidden: freely discussing faith. He said that God is different from Allah.

Since then, apologies to the Islamic world have become the official Vatican policy. Pope Francis denied that Islam itself is violent and claimed that the potential for violence lies within every religion, including Catholicism. Previously, Pope Francis said there is “a world war” but denied that Islam has any role in it.

“It is clear that Muslims have an ultimate goal: conquering the world…But we find it hard to recognize this reality and to respond by defending the Christian faith (…) I have heard several times an Islamic idea: ‘what we failed to do with the weapons in the past we are doing today with the birth rate and immigration’. The population is changing. If this keeps up, in countries like Italy, the majority will be Muslim (…) And what is the most important achievement? Rome.” — Monsignor Raymond Burke, US Catholic leader.

If 9/11 was the declaration of jihad against the West, 9/12 will be remembered as one of the most dramatic knee-bends of the Western cultural submission to Islam.

On September 12th 2006, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) landed in Bavaria, Germany, where he was born and first taught theology. He was expected to deliver a lecture in front of the academic community at the University of Regensburg. That lesson would go down to history as the most controversial papal speech of the last half-century.

On this, the 10th anniversary of the speech, the Western world and the Islamic world both owe Benedict an apology, but unfortunately, the opposite happened: the Vatican has apologized to the Muslims.

In his lecture, Pope Benedict clarified the internal contradictions of contemporary Islam, but he also offered a terrain of dialogue with Christianity and Western culture. The Pope spoke of the Jewish, Greek and Christian roots of Europe’s faith, explaining why these are different from Islamic monotheism. His talk contained a quote from the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman”.

This keg of dynamite was softened by a quotation from a Koranic sura of Mohammed’s youth, Benedict noted, “when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat”, and which says: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

Pope Benedict’s talk was not a surprise. “It is no secret that the Pope worried about Islam”, Christopher Caldwell noted in the Financial Times.

“He has doubted publicly that it can be accommodated in a pluralistic society. He has demoted one of John Paul II’s leading advisers on the Islamic world and tempered his support for a programme of inter-religious dialogue run by Franciscan monks at Assisi. He has embraced the view of Italian moderates and conservatives that the guiding principle of inter-religious dialogue must be reciprocità. That is, he finds it naive to permit the building of a Saudi-funded mosque, Europe’s largest, in Rome, while Muslim countries forbid the construction of churches and missions”.

In Regensburg, Benedict staged the drama of our time and for the first time in the Catholic Church’s history — a Pope talked about Islam without recycling platitudes. In that lecture, the Pope did what in the Islamic world is forbidden: freely discussing faith. He said that God is different from Allah. We never heard that again.

The quotation of Manuel II Palaeologus bounced around the world, shaking the Muslim umma [community], which reacted violently. Even the international press was unanimous in a chorus of condemnation of the “Pope’s aggression on Islam.”

The reaction to Pope’s speech proved that he was right. From Muslim leaders to the New York Times, everybody demanded the Pope’s apologies and submission. The mainstream media turned him into an incendiary proponent of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.” In the Palestinian Authority area, Christian churches were burned and Christians targeted. British Islamists called to “kill” the Pope, but Benedict defied them.

At the same time, in Somalia, an Italian nun was shot. In Iraq, a Syrian Orthodox priest was beheaded by al-Qaeda and mutilated after the terrorists demanded that the Catholic Church to apologize for the speech. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood pledged retaliations against the Pope. A Pakistani leader, Shahid Shamsi, accused the Vatican of supporting “the Zionist entity.”Salih Kapusuz, number two in the party of the Turkey’s then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compared Pope Benedict XVI to Hitler and Mussolini. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted that the words of the Pope belong to “the chain of US-Israeli conspiracy,” and accused Benedict of being part of the “Crusader conspiracy.”

Security around Pope Benedict was soon massively increased. Two years later, the Pope had been barred from speaking at Rome’s most important university, La Sapienza. After the Regensburg affair, Benedict would not be the same anymore. Islamists and Western appeasers had been able to close his mouth.

A few days after the lecture, exhausted and frightened, Pope Benedict apologized. I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address … which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” the Pope told pilgrims at his Castelgandolfo summer residence. The quote did not “in any way express my personal thoughts. I hope this serves to appease hearts.”

The Pope may have said that to stop further violence. But since then, apologies to the Islamic world have become the official Vatican policy.

“The default positions vis-à-vis militant Islam are now unhappily reminiscent of Vatican diplomacy’s default positions vis-à-vis communism during the last 25 years of the Cold War,” wrote George Weigel, a US leading scholar. The Vatican’s new agenda seeks “to reach political accommodations with Islamic states and foreswear forceful public condemnation of Islamist and jihadist ideology.”

Ten years since the Regensburg lecture, relevant as ever after ISIS’s attacks on European soil, another Pope, Francis I, has tried in many ways to separate Muslims and violence and always avoided mentioning that forbidden word: Islam. As Sandro Magister, one of Italy’s most important journalists on Catholic issues, wrote: “In the face of the offensive of radical Islam, Francis’s idea is that ‘we must soothe the conflict’. And forget Regensburg.”

The entire Vatican’s diplomatic body today carefully avoids the words “Islam” and “Muslims,” and instead embraces a denial that a clash of civilization exists. Returning from World Youth Day in Poland last August, Pope Francis denied that Islam itself is violent and claimed that the potential for violence lies within every religion, including Catholicism. Previously, Pope Francis said there is “a world war,” but denied that Islam has any role in it.

1624-1In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI (left) said what no Pope had ever dared to say — that there is a link between violence and Islam. Ten years later, Pope Francis (right) never calls those responsible for anti-Christian violence by name and never mentions the word “Islam.” (Image source: Benedict: Flickr/Catholic Church of England | Francis: Wikimedia Commons/korea.net)

In May, Pope Francis explained that the “idea of conquest” is integral to Islam as a religion, but he quickly added that some might interpret Christianity, the religion of turning the other cheek, in the same way. “Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,” the Pope claimed in 2013. A year later, Francis declared that “Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence.” He claimed that it is the ills of global economy, and not Islam, that inspire terrorism. And a few days ago, the Pope said that “people who call themselves Christians but do not want refugees at their door are hypocrites.”

Pope Francis’s pontificate has been marked by this moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam, which also obfuscates the crimes of Muslims against their own people, Eastern Christians and the West.

But there are brave cardinals who still speak the truth. One is the US Catholic leader Raymond Burke, who is featured in a recent interview with the Italian media, in which he said:

“It is clear that Muslims have an ultimate goal: conquering the world. Islam, through the sharia, their law, wants to rule the world and allows violence against the infidels, such as Christians. But we find it hard to recognize this reality and to respond by defending the Christian faith (…) I have heard several times an Islamic idea: ‘what we failed to do with the weapons in the past we are doing today with the birth rate and immigration’. The population is changing. If this keeps up, in countries like Italy, the majority will be Muslim (…) Islam realizes itself in the conquest. And what is the most important achievement? Rome.”

Unfortunately, Rome’s first bishop, Pope Francis, seems deaf and blind to these important truths. It took five days for Benedict XVI to apologize for his brave lecture. But he opened a decade-long season of the Vatican’s excuses for Islamic terrorism.

Pope Francis is still awaited for a visit at the church of St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by Islamists this summer. That killing, ten years after the Regensburg lecture, is the most tragic proof that Benedict was right and Francis wrong.