August 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Aboard the papal plane after World Youth Day, Pope Francis rejected the notion that Islam is inherently violent, prompting swift reactions from Catholic and media commentators and even the Islamic state.
A French reporter brought up 85-year-old Fr. Jacques Hamel, a French priest who was murdered July 26 by Islamic extremists while offering Mass. The reporter asked Pope Francis why he never uses the word “Islam” when he speaks of terrorists.
The full text of their exchange, translated by Catholic News Agency, is below:
Antoine Marie Izoarde, i.Media: Holy Father, before all I make the congratulations to you and Father Lombardi and also to Fr. Spadaro for the feast of St. Ignatius, if you allow me. The question is a little difficult: Catholics are a bit in shock, and not only in France, after the barbarous assassination of Fr. Jacques Hamel — as you know well — in his church while celebrating the Holy Mass. Four days ago, you here told us that all religions want peace. But this holy, 86-year-old priest was clearly killed in the name of Islam. So, Holy Father, I have two brief questions: why do you, when you speak of these violent events, always speak of terrorists, but never of Islam, never use the word Islam? And then, aside from prayer and dialogue, which are obviously essential, what concrete initiatives can you advise or suggest in order to counteract Islamic violence? Thank you, Holiness.
Pope Francis: I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy … this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law … and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence … and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion … this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no? I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think … They seek peace, encounter … The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door. And some approach the confessionals — Catholics — others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady … these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live … When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile … We can coexist well … But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask … there is a question … How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work … they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups. One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent … because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things … But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS … but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.
Izoard: Your concrete initiatives to counteract terrorism, violence?
Pope Francis: Terrorism is everywhere. You think of the tribal terrorism of some African countries. It is terrorism and also … But I don’t know if I say it because it is a little dangerous … Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person — men and women — this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation — man and woman — and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!
Does Pope Francis “really think these people kill in the name of Catholicism?” asked columnist Michael B. Dougherty on Twitter.
This man is so far gone. Does he really think these people kill in the name of Catholicism?
— Michael B Dougherty (@michaelbd) July 31, 2016
“Of course there are violent Catholics,” wrote Joseph Farah at WND. “But when a bomb goes off in a café in Israel or a terrorist shoots up a café in Paris, we don’t think for one minute that the perpetrator is a Catholic. That’s because Islamic terrorist acts are not only a reality, they have become the norm throughout the entire world. Denying it’s true doesn’t change reality.”
In their propaganda magazine Dabiq, the Islamic state responded to Pope Francis and insisted that he should identify Islam as violent.
“This is a divinely-warranted war between the Muslim nation and the nations of disbelief,” according to the terrorist group. They wrote that Pope Francis has “struggled against reality” in his depictions of Islam as peaceful.
“Indeed, waging jihad — spreading the rule of Allah by the sword — is an obligation found in the Quran, the word of our Lord,” they wrote. “The blood of the disbelievers is obligatory to spill by default. The command is clear. Kill the disbelievers, as Allah said, ‘Then kill the polytheists wherever you find them.’”
Nick Donnelly, a Catholic deacon and columnist for Catholic Voice Ireland, tweeted that Christians in the Middle East likely feel “abandoned” by the pontiff’s remarks.
Imagine how Iraqi & Syrian Christians feel tonight after hearing Pope Francis deny the Islam is violent. Abandoned.; Nick Donnelly (@ProtectthePope) <August 1, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, recognized as a “Doctor of the Church” for being Catholicism’s greatest theologian of all time, wrote that Islam spread by violence:
[Muhammad] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms — which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.
Earlier last week, Rev. Franklin Graham, son of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham and President of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, responded to other comments Pope Francis made that “the world is at war” while denying it’s a religious one.
“I agree that the world is at war — but I disagree that it’s not a war of religion,” Graham wrote on Facebook. “It is most certainly a war of religion. Religion is behind the violence and jihad we’re seeing in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and here in this country. It's a religion that calls for the extermination of ‘infidels’ outside their faith, specifically Jews and Christians. It’s a religion that calls on its soldiers to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is Great’ in Arabic) as they behead, rape, and murder in the name of Islam. Radical Islamists are following the teachings of the Quran. We should call it what it is.”