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Islam cont.

We have just seen what was the main cause of Islam’s
extraordinarily rapid spread; a complicated and fatigued society, and one
burdened with the institution of slavery; one, moreover, in which millions
of peasants in Egypt, Syria and all the East, crushed with usury and heavy
taxation, were offered immediate relief by the new creed, or rather, the
new heresy. Its note was simplicity and therefore it was suited to the
popular mind in a society where hitherto a restricted class had pursued
its quarrels on theology and government.

That is the main fact which accounts for the sudden spread of
Islam after its first armed victory over the armies rather than the people
of the Greek-speaking Eastern Empire. But this alone would not account for
two other equally striking triumphs. The first was the power the new
heresy showed of absorbing the Asiatic people of the Near East,
Mesopotamia and the mountain land between it and India. The second was the
wealth and the splendour of the Caliphate (that is, of the central
Mohammedan monarchy) in the generations coming immediately after the first
sweep of victory.

The first of these points, the spread over Mesopotamia and Persia
and the mountain land towards India, was not, as in the case of the sudden
successes in Syria and Egypt, due to the appeal of simplicity, freedom
from slavery and relief from debt. It was due to a certain underlying
historical character in the Near East which has always influenced its
society and continues to influence it today. That character is a sort of
natural uniformity. There has been inherent in it from times earlier than
any known historical record, a sort of instinct for obedience to one
religious head, which is also the civil head, and a general similarity of
social culture. When we talk of the age-long struggle between Asia and the
West, we mean by the word “Asia” all that sparse population of the
mountain land beyond Mesopotamia towards India, its permanent influence
upon the Mesopotamian plains themselves, and its potential influence upon
even the highlands and sea coast of Syria and Palestine.

The struggle between Asia and Europe swings over a vast period
like a tide ebbing and flowing. For nearly a thousand years, from the
conquest of Alexander to the coming of the Mohammedan Reformers (333 B.C.
-634), the tide had set eastward; that is, Western influences_Greek,
and then Greek and Roman_had flooded the debatable land. For a short
period of about two and a half to three centuries even Mesopotamia was
superficially Greek_in its governing class, at any rate. Then Asia began
to flood back again westward. The old Pagan Roman Empire and the Christian
Empire, which succeeded it and which was governed from Constantinople,
were never able to hold permanently the land beyond the Euphrates. The new
push from Asia westward was led by the Persians, and the Persians and
Parthians (which last were a division of the Persians) not only kept their
hold on Mesopotamia but were able to carry out raids into Roman territory
itself, right up to the end of that period. In the last few years before
the appearance of Mohammedanism they had appeared on the Mediterranean
coast and had sacked Jerusalem.

Now when Islam came with its first furious victorious cavalry
charges springing from the desert, it powerfully reinforced this tendency
of Asia to reassert itself. The uniformity of temper which is the mark of
Asiatic society, responded at once to this new idea of one very simple,
personal form of government, sanctified by religion, and ruling with a
power theoretically absolute from one centre. The Caliphate once
established at Bagdad, Bagdad became just what Babylon had been; the
central capital of one vast society, giving its tone to all the lands from
the Indian borders to Egypt and beyond.

But even more remarkable than the flooding of all near Asia with
Mohammedanism in one lifetime was the wealth and splendour and culture of
the new Islamic Empire. Islam was in those early centuries (most of the
seventh, all the eighth and ninth), the highest material civilization of
our occidental world. The city of Constantinople was also very wealthy and
enjoyed a very high civilization, which radiated over dependent provinces,
Greece and the seaboard of the Aegean and the uplands of Asia Minor, but
it was focussed in the imperial city; in the greater part of the
country-sides culture was on the decline. In the West it was notoriously
so. Gaul and Britain, and in some degree Italy, and the valley of the
Danube, fell back towards barbarism. They never became completely
barbaric, not even in Britain, which was the most remote; but they were
harried and impoverished, and lacked proper government. From the fifth
century to the early eleventh (say A.D. 450 to A.D. 1030) ran the period
which we call “The Dark Ages” of Europe_in spite of Charlemagne’s

So much for the Christian world of that time, against which Islam
was beginning to press so heavily; which had lost to Islam the whole of
Spain and certain islands and coasts of the central Mediterranean as well.
Christendom was under siege from Islam. Islam stood up against us in
dominating splendour and wealth and power, and, what was even more
important, with superior knowledge in the practical and applied sciences.

Islam preserved the Greek philosophers, the Greek mathematicians
and their works, the physical science of the Greek and Roman earlier
writers. Islam was also far more lettered than was Christendom. In the
mass of the West most men had become illiterate. Even in Constantinople
reading and writing were not as common as they were in the world governed
by the Caliph.

One might sum up and say that the contrast between the Mohammedan
world of those early centuries and the Christian world which it threatened
to overwhelm was like the contrast between a modern industrialized state
and a backward, half-developed state next door to it: the contrast between
modern Germany, for instance, and its Russian neighbor. The contrast was
not as great as that, but the modern parallel helps one to understand it.
For centuries to come Islam was to remain a menace, even though Spain was
re-conquered. In the East it became more than a menace, and spread
continually for seven hundred years, until it had mastered the Balkans and
the Hungarian plain, and all but occupied Western Europe itself. Islam was
the one heresy that nearly destroyed Christendom through its early
material and intellectual superiority.

Now why was this? It seems inexplicable when we remember the
uncertain and petty personal leaderships, the continual changes of local
dynasties, the shifting foundation of the Mohammedan effort. That effort
began with the attack of a very few thousand desert horsemen, who were as
much drawn by desire for loot as by their enthusiasm for new doctrines.
Those doctrines had been preached to a very sparse body of nomads,
boasting but very few permanently inhabited centres. They had originated
in a man remarkable indeed for the intensity of his nature, probably more
than half convinced, probably also a little mad, and one who had never
shown constructive ability_yet Islam conquered.

Mohammed was a camel driver, who had had the good luck to make a
wealthy marriage with a woman older that himself. From the security of
that position he worked out his visions and enthusiasms, and undertook his
propaganda. But it was all done in an ignorant and very small way. There
was no organization, and the moment the first bands had succeeded in
battle, the leaders began fighting among themselves: not only fighting,
but murdering. The story of all the first lifetime, and a little more,
after the original rush_the story of the Mohammedan government (such as it
was) so long as it was centred in Damascus, is a story of successive
intrigue and murder. Yet when the second dynasty which presided for so
long over Islam, the Abbasides, with their capital further east at Bagdad,
on the Euphrates, restored the old Mesopotamian domination over Syria,
ruling also Egypt and all the Mohammedan world, that splendour and
science, material power and wealth of which I spoke, arose and dazzled all
contemporaries, and we must ask the question again: why was this?

The answer lies in the very nature of the Mohammedan conquest. It
did , as has been so frequently repeated, destroy at once what it came
across; it did
exterminate all those who would not accept Islam. It
was just the other way. It was remarkable among all the powers which have
ruled these lands throughout history for what has wrongly been called its
“tolerance.” The Mohammedan temper was not tolerant. It was, on the
contrary, fanatical and bloodthirsty. It felt no respect for, nor even
curiosity about, those from whom it differed. It was absurdly vain of
itself, regarding with contempt the high Christian culture about it. It
still so regards it even today.

But the conquerors, and those whom they converted and attached to
themselves from the native populations, were still too few to govern by
force. And (what is more important) they had no idea of organization. They
were always slipshod and haphazard. Therefore a very large majority of
the conquered remained in their old habits of life and of religion.

Slowly the influence of Islam spread through these, but during the
first centuries the great majority in Syria, and even in Mesopotamia and
Egypt, were Christian, keeping the Christian Mass, the Christian Gospels,
and all the Christian tradition. It was they who preserved the
Graeco-Roman civilization from which they descended, and it was that
civilization, surviving under the surface of Mohammedan government, which
gave their learning and material power to the wide territories which we
must call, even so early, “the Mohammedan world,” though the bulk of it
was not yet Mohammedan in creed.

But there was another and it is the most important cause. The
fiscal cause: the overwhelming wealth of the early Mohammedan Caliphate.
The merchant and the tiller of the land, the owner of property and the
negotiator, were everywhere relieved by the Mohammedan conquest; for a
mass of usury was swept away, as was an intricate system of taxation which
had become clogged, ruining the taxpayer without corresponding results for
the government. What the Arabian conquerors and their successors in
Mesopotamia did was to replace all that by a simple, straight system of

What ever was not Mohammedan in the immense Mohammedan Empire_that
is, much the most of its population_was subject to a special tribute; and
it was this tribute which furnished directly, without loss from the
intricacies of bureaucracy, the wealth of the central power: the revenue
of the Caliph. That revenue remained enormous during all the first
generations. The result was that which always follows upon a high
concentration of wealth in one governing centre; the whole of the society
governed from that centre reflects the opulence of its directors.

There we have the explanation of that strange, that unique
phenomenon in history_a revolt against civilization which did not destroy
civilization; a consuming heresy which did not destroy the Christian
religion against which it was directed.

The world of Islam became and long remained, the heir of the old
Graeco-Roman culture and the preserver thereof. Thence was it that, alone
of all the great heresies, Mohammedanism not only survived, and is, after
nearly fourteen centuries, as strong as ever spiritually. In time it
struck roots and established a civilization of its own over against ours,
and a permanent rival to us.

Now that we have understood why Islam, the most formidable of
heresies, achieved its strength and astounding success we must try to
understand why, alone of all the heresies, it has survived in full
strength and even continues (after a fashion) to expand to this day.

This is a point of decisive importance to the understanding not
only of our subject but of the history of the world in general. Yet it is
one which is, unfortunately, left almost entirely undiscussed in the
modern world.

Millions of modern people of the white civilization_that is, the
civilization of Europe and America_have forgotten all about Islam. They
have never come in contact with it. they take for granted that it is
decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not
concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy
which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a
menace in the future as it has been in the past.

To that point of its future menace I shall return in the last of
these pages on Mohammedanism.

All the great heresies_save this one of Mohammedanism_seem to go
through the same phases.

First they rise with great violence and become fashionable; they
do so by insisting on some one of the great Catholic doctrines in an
exaggerated fashion; and because the great Catholic doctrines combined
form the only full and satisfactory philosophy known to mankind, each
doctrine is bound to have its special appeal.

Thus Arianism insisted on the unity of God, combined with the
majesty and creative power of Our Lord. At the same time it appealed to
imperfect minds because it tried to rationalize a mystery. Calvinism again
had a great success because it insisted on another main doctrine, the
Omnipotence and Omniscience of God. It got the rest out of proportion and
went violently wrong on Predestination; but it had its moment of triumph
when it looked as though it were going to conquer all our
civilization_which it would have done if the French had not fought it in
their great religious war and conquered its adherents on that soil of Gaul
which has always been the battle ground and testing place of European

After this first phase of the great heresies, when they are in
their initial vigour and spread like a flame from man to man, there comes
a second phase of decline, lasting, apparently (according to some obscure
law), through about five or six generations: say a couple of hundred years
or a little more. The adherents of the heresy grow less numerous and less
convinced until at last only quite a small number can be called full and
faithful followers of the original movement.

Then comes the third phase, when each heresy wholly disappears as
a bit of doctrine: no one believes the doctrine any more or only such a
tiny fraction remain believers that they no longer count. But the social
and moral factors of the heresy remain and may be of powerful effect for
generations more. We see that in the case of Calvinism today. Calvinism
produced the Puritan movement and from that there proceeded as a necessary
consequence of the isolation of the soul, the backup of corporate social
action, unbridled competition and greed, and at last the full
establishment of what we call “Industrial Capital- ism” today, whereby
civilization is now imperilled through the discontent of the vast
destitute majority with their few plutocratic masters. There is no one
left except perhaps a handful of people in Scotland who really believe the
doctrines Calvin taught, but the spirit of Calvinism is still very strong
in the countries it originally infected, and its social fruits remain.

Now in the case of Islam none of all this happened except the
phase. There was no second phase of gradual decline in the numbers
and conviction of its followers. On the contrary Islam grew from strength
to strength acquiring more and more territory, converting more and more
followers, until it had established itself as a quite separate
civilization and seemed so like a new religion that most people came to
forget its origin as a heresy.

Islam increased not only in numbers and in the conviction of its
followers but in territory and in actual political and armed power until
close on the eighteenth century. Less than 100 years before the American
War of Independence a Mohammedan army was threatening to overrun and
destroy Christian civilization, and would have done so if the Catholic
King of Poland had not destroyed that army outside Vienna.

Since then the armed power of Mohammedanism has declined; but
neither its numbers nor the conviction of its followers have appreciably
declined; and as to the territory annexed by it, though it has lost places
in which it ruled over subject Christian majorities, it has gained new
adherents_to some extent in Asia, and largely in Africa. Indeed in Africa
it is still expanding among the negroid populations, and that expansion
provides an important future problem for the European Governments who have
divided Africa between them.

And there is another point in connection with this power of Islam.
Islam is apparently .

The missionary efforts made by great Catholic orders which have
been occupied in trying to turn Mohammedans into Christians for nearly 400
years have everywhere wholly failed. We have in some places driven the
Mohammedan master out and freed his Christian subjects from Mohammedan
control, but we have had hardly any effect in converting individual
Mohammedans save perhaps to some small amount in Southern Spain 500 years
ago; and even so that was rather an example of political than of religious

Now what is the explanation of all this? Why should Islam alone of
all the great heresies show such continued vitality?

Those who are sympathetic with Mohammedanism and still more those
who are actually Mohammedans explain it by proclaiming it the best and
most human of religions, the best suited to mankind, and the most

Strange as it may seem, there are a certain number of highly
educated men, European gentlemen, who have actually joined Islam, that is,
who are personal converts to Mohammedanism. I myself have known and talked
to some half-dozen of them in various parts of the world, and there are a
very much larger number of similar men, well instructed Europeans, who,
having lost their faith in Catholicism or in some form of Protestantism in
which they were brought up, feel sympathy with the Mohammedan social
scheme although they do not actually join it or profess belief in its
religion. We constantly meet men of this kind today among those who have
travelled in the East.

These men always give the same answer_Islam is indestructible
because it is founded on simplicity and justice. It has kept those
Christian doctrines which are evidently true and which appeal to the
common sense of millions, while getting rid of priestcraft, mysteries,
sacraments, and all the rest of it. It proclaims and practices human
equality. It loves justice and forbids usury. It produces a society in
which men are happier and feel their own dignity more than in any other.
That is its strength and that is why it still converts people and endures
and will perhaps return to power in the near future.

Now I do not think that explanation to be the true one. All heresy
talks in those terms. Every heresy will tell you that it has purified the
corruptions of Christian doctrines and in general done nothing but good to
mankind, satisfied the human soul, and so on. Yet every one of them
Mohammedanism has faded out. Why?

In order to get the answer to the problem we must remark in what
the fortunes of Islam have differed from those of all the other great
heresies, and when we remark that I think we shall have the clue to the

Islam has differed from all the other heresies in two main points
which must be carefully noticed:

(1) It did not rise within the Church, that is, within the
frontiers of our civilization. Its heresiarch was not a man originally
Catholic who led away Catholic followers by his novel doctrine as did
Arius or Calvin. He was an outsider born a pagan, living among pagans, and
never baptized. He adopted Christian doctrines and selected among them in
the true heresiarch fashion. He dropped those that did not suit him and
insisted on those that did_which is the mark of the heresiarch_but he did
not do this as from within; his action was external.

Those first small but fierce armies of nomad Arabs who won their
astounding victories in Syria and Egypt against the Catholic world of the
early seventh century were made of men who had all been pagans before they
became Mohammedan. There was among them no previous Catholicism to which
they might return.

(2) This body of Islam attacking Christendom from beyond its
frontiers and not breaking it up from within, happened to be continually
recruited with fighting material of the strongest kind and drafted in from
the pagan outer darkness.

This recruitment went on in waves, incessantly, through the
centuries until the end of the Middle Ages. It was mainly Mongol coming
from Asia (though some of it was Berber coming from North Africa), and it
was this ceaseless, recurrent impact of new adherents, conquerors and
fighters as the original Arabs had been, which gave Islam its formidable
resistance and continuance of power.

Not long after the first conquest of Syria and Egypt it looked as
though the enthusiastic new heresy, in spite of its dazzling sudden
triumph, would fail. The continuity in leadership broke down. So did the
political unity of the whole scheme. The original capital of the movement
was Damascus and at first Mohammedanism was a Syrian thing (and, by
extension, an Egyptian thing); but after quite a short time a break-up was
apparent. A new dynasty began ruling from Mesopotamia and no longer from
Syria. The Western Districts, that is North Africa and Spain (after the
conquest of Spain), formed a separate political government under a
separate obedience.

The characteristic of these nomadic Mongols (who come after the
fifth century over and over again in waves to the assault against our
civilization), is that they are indomitable fighters and at the same
time almost purely destructive. They massacre by the million; they burn
and destroy; they turn fertile districts into desert. They seem incapable
of creative effort.
Twice we in the Christian European West have barely escaped final
destruction at their hands; once when we defeated the vast Asiatic army of
Attila near Chalons in France, in the middle of the fifth century
(not before he had committed horrible outrage and left ruin behind him
everywhere), and again in the thirteenth century, 800 years later. Then
the advancing Asiatic Mongol power was checked, not by our armies but by
the death of the man who had united it in his one hand. But it was not
checked till it reached north Italy and was approaching Venice.

It was this recruitment of Mongol bodyguards in successive
instalments which kept Islam going and prevented its suffering the fate
that all other heresies had suffered. It kept Islam thundering like a
battering ram from of Europe, making breaches in our
defence and penetrating further and further into what had been Christian

The Mongol invaders readily accepted Islam; the men who served as
mercenary soldiers and formed the real power of the Caliphs were quite
ready to conform to the simple requirements of Mohammedanism. They had no
regular religion of their own strong enough to counteract the effects of
those doctrines of Islam which, mutilated as they were, were in the main
Christian doctrines_the unity and majesty of God, the immortality of the
soul and all the rest of it. The Mongol mercenaries supporting the
political power of the Caliphs were attracted to these main doctrines and
easily adopted them. They became good Moslems and as soldiers supporting
the Caliphs were thus propagators and maintainers of Islam.

When in the heart of the Middle Ages it looked as though again
Islam had failed, a new batch of Mongol soldiers, “Turks” by name, came in

and saved the fortunes of Mohammedanism again although they began
by the most abominable destruction of such civilization as Mohammedanism
had preserved. That is why in the struggles of the Crusades Christians
regarded the enemy as “The Turk”; a general name common to many of these
nomad tribes. The Christian preachers of the Crusades and captains of the
soldiers and the Crusaders in their songs speak of “The Turk” as the enemy
much more than they do in general of Mohammedanism.

In spite of the advantage of being fed by continual recruitment,
the pressure of Mohammedanism upon Christendom might have failed after
all, had one supreme attempt to relieve that pressure upon the Christian
West succeeded. That supreme attempt was made in the middle of the whole
business (A.D. 1095-1200) and is called in history “The Crusades.”
Catholic Christendom succeeded in recapturing Spain; it nearly succeeded
in pushing back Mohammedanism from Syria, in saving the Christian
civilization of Asia, and in cutting off the Asiatic Mohammedan from the
African. Had it done so perhaps Mohammedanism would have died.

But the Crusades failed. Their failure is the major tragedy in the
history of our struggle against Islam, that is, against Asia_against the

What the Crusades were, and why and how they failed I shall now

The success of Mohammedanism had not been due to its offering
something more satisfactory in the way of philosophy and morals, but, as I
have said, to the opportunity it afforded of freedom to the slave and
debtor, and an extreme simplicity which pleased the unintelligent masses
who were perplexed by the mysteries inseparable from the profound
intellectual life of Catholicism, and from its radical doctrine of the
Incarnation. But it was spreading and it looked as though it were bound to
win universally, as do all great heresies in their beginnings, because it
was the fashionable thing of the time_the conquering thing.

Now against the great heresies, when they acquire the driving
power of being the new and fashionable thing, there arises a reaction
within the Christian and Catholic mind, which reaction gradually turns the
current backward, gets rid of the poison and re-establishes Christian
civilization. Such reactions, begin, I repeat, obscurely. It is the plain
man who gets uncomfortable and says to himself, “This may be the fashion
of the moment, but I don’t like it.” It is the mass of Christian men who
feel in their bones that there is something wrong, though they have
difficulty in explaining it. The reaction is usually slow and muddled and
for a long time not successful. But in the long run with internal heresy
it has always succeeded; just as the native health of the human body
succeeds in getting rid of some internal infection.

A heresy, when it is full of its original power, affects even
Catholic thought_thus Arianism produced a mass of semi-Arianism running
throughout Christendom. The Manichean dread of the body and the false
doctrine that matter is evil affected even the greatest Catholics of the
time. There is a touch of it in the letters of the great St. Gregory. In
the same way Mohammedanism had its affect on the Christian Emperors of
Byzantium and on Charlemagne, the Emperor of the West; for instance there
was a powerful movement started against the use of images, which are so
essential to Catholic worship. Even in the West, where Mohammedanism had
never reached, the attempt to get rid of images in the churches nearly

But while Mohammedanism was spreading, absorbing greater and
greater numbers into its own body; out of the subject Christian
populations of East and North Africa, occupying more and more territory, a
defensive reaction against it had begun. Islam gradually absorbed North
Africa and crossed over into Spain; less than a century after those first
victories in Syria it even pushed across the Pyrenees, right into France.
Luckily it was defeated in battle halfway between Tours and Poitiers in
the north centre of the country. Some think that if the Christian leaders
had not won battle, the whole of Christendom would have been swamped by
Mohammedanism. At any rate from that moment in the West it never advanced
further. It was pushed back to the Pyrenees, and very slowly indeed over a
period of 300 years it was thrust further and further south toward the
centre of Spain, the north of which was cleared again of Mohammedan
influence. In the East, however, as we shall see, it continued to be an
overwhelming threat.
Pg. 11—————————————————————————————————
Now the success of Christian men in pushing back the Mohammedan
from France and halfway down Spain began a sort of re-awakening in Europe.
It was high time. We of the West had been besieged in three ways; pagan
Asiatics had come upon us in the very heart of the Germanies; pagan
pirates of the most cruel and disgusting sort had swarmed over the
Northern Seas and nearly wiped out Christian civilization in England and
hurt it also in Northern France; and with all that there had been this
pressure of Mohammedanism coming from the South and South-east_a much more
civilized pressure than that of the Asiatics or Scandinavian pirates but
still a menace, under which our Christian civilization came near to

It is most interesting to take a map of Europe and mark off the
extreme limits reached by the enemies of Christendom during the worst of
this struggle for existence. The outriders of the worst Asiatic raid got
as far as Tournus on the Sa{ne, which is in the very middle of what is
France today; the Mohammedan got, as we have seen, to the very middle of
France also, somewhere between Tournus and Poitiers. The horrible
Scandinavian pagan pirates raided Ireland, all England, and came up all
the rivers of Northern France and Northern Germany. They got as far as
Cologne, they besieged Paris, they nearly took Hamburg. People today
forget how very doubtful a thing it was in the height of the Dark Ages,
between the middle of the eighth and the end of the ninth century, whether
Catholic civilization would survive at all. Half the Mediterranean Islands
had fallen to the Mohammedan, all the Near East; he was fighting to get
hold of Asia Minor; and the North and centre of Europe were perpetually
raided by the Asiatics and the Northern pagans.

Then came the great reaction and the awakening of Europe.

The chivalry which poured out of Gaul into Spain and the native
Spanish knights forcing back the Mohammedans began the affair. The
Scandinavian pirates and the raiders from Asia had been defeated two
generations before. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, distant, expensive and
perilous, but continuous throughout the Dark Ages, were now especially
imperilled through a new Mongol wave of Mohammedan soldiers establishing
themselves over the East and especially in Palestine; and the cry arose
that the Holy Places, the True Cross (which was preserved in Jerusalem)
and the remaining Christian communities of Syria and Palestine, and above
all the Holy Sepulchre_the site of the Resurrection, the main object of
every pilgrimage_ought to be saved from the usurping hands of Islam.
Enthusiastic men preached the duty of marching eastward and rescuing the
Holy Land; the reigning Pope, Urban, put himself at the head of the
movement in a famous sermon delivered in France to vast crowds, who cried
out: “God wills it.” Irregular bodies began to pour out eastward for the
thrusting back of Islam from the Holy Land, and in due time the regular
levies of great Christian Princes prepared for an organized effort on a
vast scale. Those who vowed themselves to pursue the effort took the badge
of the Cross on their clothing, and from this the struggle became to be
known as the Crusades.

The First Crusade was launched in three great bodies of more or
less organized Christian soldiery, who set out to march from Western
Europe to the Holy Land. I say “more or less organized” because the feudal
army was never highly organized; it was divided into units of very
different sizes each following a feudal lord_but of course it had
sufficient organization to carry a military enterprise through, because a
mere herd of men can never do that. In order not to exhaust the provisions
of the countries through which they had to march the Christian leaders
went in three bodies, one from Northern France, going down the valley of
the Danube; another from Southern France, going across Italy; and a third
of Frenchmen who had recently acquired dominion in Southern Italy and who
crossed the Adriatic directly, making for Constantinople through the
Balkans. they all joined at Constantinople, and by the time they got
there, there were still in spite of losses on the way something which may
have been a quarter of a million men_perhaps more. The numbers were never
accurately known or computed.

The Emperor at Constantinople was still free, at the head of his
great Christian capital, but he was dangerously menaced by the fighting
Mohammedan Turks who were only just over the water in Asia Minor, and
whose object it was to get hold of Constantinople and so press on to the
ruin of Christendom. This pressure on Constantinople the great mass of the
Crusaders immediately relieved; they won a battle against the Turks at
Dorylaeum and pressed on with great difficulty and further large losses of
men till they reached the corner where Syria joins onto Asia Minor at the
Gulf of Alexandretta. There, one of the Crusading leaders carved out a
kingdom for himself, making his capital at the Christian town of Edessa,
to serve as a bulwark against further Mohammedan pressure from the East.
The last of the now dwindling Christian forces besieged and with great
difficulty took Antioch, which the Mohammedans had got hold of a few years
before. Here another Crusading leader made himself feudal lord, and there
was a long delay and a bad quarrel between the Crusaders and the Emperor
of Constantinople, who naturally wanted them to return to him what had
been portions of his realm before Mohammedanism had grown up_while the
Crusaders wanted to keep what they had conquered so that the revenues
might become an income for each of them.

At last they got away from Antioch at the beginning of the open
season of the third year after they started_the last year of the eleventh
century, 1099; they took all the towns along the coast as they marched;
when they got on a level with Jerusalem they struck inland and stormed the
city on the 15th of July of that year, killing all the Mohammedan garrison
and establishing themselves firmly within the walls of the Holy City. They
then organized their capture into a feudal kingdom, making one of their
number titular King of the new realm of Jerusalem. They chose for that
office a great noble of the country where the Teutonic and Gallic races
meet in the north-east of France_Godfrey of Bouillon, a powerful Lord of
the Marches. He had under him as nominal inferiors the great feudal lords
who had carved out districts for themselves from Edessa southwards, and
those who had built and established themselves in the great stone castles
which still remain, among the finest ruins in the world.

By the time the Crusaders had accomplished their object and seized
the Holy Places they had dwindled to a very small number of men. It is
probable that the actual fighting men, as distinguished from servants,
camp followers and the rest, present at the siege of Jerusalem, did not
count much more than 15,000. And upon that force everything turned. Syria
had not been thoroughly recovered, nor the Mohammedans finally thrust
back; the seacoast was held with the support of a population still largely
Christian, but the plain and the seacoast and Palestine up to the Jordan
make only a narrow strip behind which and parallel to which comes a range
of hills which in the middle of the country are great mountains_the
Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. Behind that again the country turns into
desert, and on the edge of the desert there is a string of towns which
are, as it were, the ports of the desert_that is, the points where the
caravans arrive.

These “ports of the desert” have always been rendered very
important by commerce, and their names go back well beyond the beginning
of recorded history. A string of towns thus stretched along the edge of
the desert begins from Aleppo in the north down as far as Petra, south of
the Dead Sea. They were united by the great caravan route which reaches to
North Arabia, and they were all predominantly Mohammedan by the time of
the Crusading effort. The central one of these towns and the richest, the
great mark of Syria, is Damascus. If the first Crusaders had had enough
men to take Damascus their effort would have been permanently successful.
But their forces were insufficient for that, they could only barely hold
the sea coast of Palestine up to the Jordan_and even so they held it only
by the aid of immense fortified works.

There was a good deal of commerce with Europe, but not sufficient
recruitment of forces, and the consequence was that the vast sea of
Mohammedanism all around began to seep in and undermine the Christian
position. The first sign of what was coming was the fall of Edessa (the
capital of the north-eastern state of the Crusading federation, the state
most exposed to attack), less than half a century after the first capture
of Jerusalem.

It was the first serious set-back, and roused great excitement in
the Christian West. The Kings of France and England set out with great
armies to re-establish the Crusading position, and this time they went for
the strategic key of the whole country_Damascus. But they failed to take
it: and when they and their men sailed back again the position of the
Crusaders in Syria was as perilous as it had been before. They were
guaranteed another lease of precarious security as long as the Mohammedan
world was divided into rival bodies, but it was certain that if ever a
leader should arise who could unify the Mohammedan power in his hands the
little Christian garrisons were doomed.

And this is exactly what happened. Salah-ed- Din_whom we call
Saladin_a soldier of genius, the son of a former Governor of Damascus,
gradually acquired all power over the Mohammedan world of the Near East.
He became master of Egypt, master of all the towns on the fringe of the
desert, and when he marched to the attack with his united forces the
remaining Christian body of Syria had no chance of victory. They made a
fine rally, withdrawing every available man from their castle garrisons
and forming a mobile force which attempted to relieve the siege of the
castle of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. The Christian Army was
approaching Tiberias and had got as far as the sloping mountain-side of
Hattin, about a day’s march away, when it was attacked by Saladin and

That disaster, which took place in the summer of 1187, was
followed by the collapse of nearly the whole Christian military colony in
Syria and the Holy Land. Saladin took town after town, save one or two
points on the sea coast which were to remain in Christian hands more than
another lifetime. But the kingdom of Jerusalem, the feudal Christian realm
which had recovered and held the Holy Places, was gone. Jerusalem itself
fell of course, and its fall produced an enormous effect in Europe. All
the great leaders, the King of England, Richard Plantagenet, the King of
France and the Emperor, commanding jointly a large and first-rate army
mainly German in recruitment, set out to recover what had been lost. But
they failed. They managed to get hold of one or two more points on the
coast, but they never retook Jerusalem and never re-established the old
Christian kingdom.

Thus ended a series of three mighty duels between Christendom and
Islam. Islam had won.

Had the Crusaders’ remaining force at the end of the first
Crusading march been a little more numerous, had they taken Damascus and
the string of towns on the fringe of the desert, the whole history of the
world would have been changed. The world of Islam would have been cut in
two, with the East unable to approach the West; probably we Europeans
would have recovered North Africa and Egypt_we should certainly have saved
Constantinople_and Mohammedanism would have only survived as an Oriental
religion thrust beyond the ancient boundaries of the Roman Empire. As it
was Mohammedanism not only survived but grew stronger. It was indeed
slowly thrust out of Spain and the eastern islands of the Mediterranean,
but it maintained its hold on the whole of North Africa, Syria, Palestine,
Asia Minor, and thence it went forward and conquered the Balkans and
Greece, overran Hungary and twice threatened to overrun Germany and reach
France again from the East, putting an end to our civilization. One of the
reasons that the breakdown of Christendom at the Reformation took place
was the fact that Mohammedan pressure against the German Emperor gave the
German Princes and towns the opportunity to rebel and start Protestant
Churches in their dominions.

Many expeditions followed against the Turk in one form or another;
they were called Crusades, and the idea continued until the very end of
the Middle Ages. But there was no recovery of Syria and no thrusting back
of the Moslem.

Meanwhile the first Crusading march had brought so many new
experiences to Western Europe that culture had developed very rapidly and
produced the magnificent architecture and the high philosophy and social
structure of the Middle Ages. That was the real fruit of the Crusades.
They failed in their own field but they made modern Europe. Yet they made
it at the expense of the old idea of Christian unity; with increasing
material civilization, modern nations began to form, Christendom still
held together, but it held together loosely. At last came the storm of the
Reformation; Christendom broke up, the various nations and Princes claimed
to be independent of any common control such as the moral position of the
Papacy had insured, and we slid down that slope which was to end at last
in the wholesale massacre of modern war_which may prove the destruction of
our civilization. Napoleon Bonaparte very well said: . It is profoundly true. Christian Europe is and
should be by nature one; but it has forgotten its nature in forgetting its

The last subject but one in our appreciation of the great
Mohammedan attack upon the Catholic Church and the civilization she had
produced, is the sudden last effort and subsequent rapid decline of
Mohammedan political power just after it had reached its summit. The last
subject of all in this connection, the one which I will treat next, is the
very important and almost neglected question of whether Mohammedan power
may not re-arise in the modern world.

If we recapitulate the fortunes of Islam after its triumph in
beating back the Crusaders and restoring its dominion over the East and
confirming its increasing grasp over half of what had once been a united
Graeco-Roman Christendom, Islam proceeded to develop two completely
different and even contradictory fortunes: it was gradually losing its
hold on Western Europe while it was increasing its hold over South-eastern

In Spain it had already been beaten back halfway from the Pyrenees
to the Straits of Gibraltar before the Crusades were launched and it was
destined in the next four to five centuries to lose every inch of ground
which it had governed in the Iberian Peninsula: today called Spain and
Portugal. Continental Western Europe (and even the islands attached to it)
was cleared of Mohammedan influence during the last centuries of the
Middle Ages, the twelfth to fifteenth centuries.

This was because Mohammedans of the West, that is, what was then
called “Barbary,” what is now French and Italian North Africa, were
politically separated from the vast majority of the Mohammedan world which
lay to the East.

Between the Barbary states (which we call today Tunis, Algiers and
Morocco) and Egypt, the desert made a barrier difficult to cross. The West
was less barren in former times than it is today, and the Italians are
reviving its prosperity. But the vast stretches of sand and gravel, with
very little water, always made this barrier between Egypt and the West a
deterrent and an obstacle. Yet, more important than this barrier was the
gradual disassociation between the Western Mohammedans of North Africa and
the mass of Mohammedans to the East thereof. The religion indeed remained
the same and the social habits and all the rest. Mohammedanism in North
Africa remained one world with Mohammedanism in Syria, Asia and Egypt,
just as the Christian civilization in the West of Europe remained for long
one world with the Christian civilization of Central Europe and even of
Eastern Europe. But distance and the fact that Eastern Mohammedans never
sufficiently came to their help made the Western Mohammedans of North
Africa and of Spain feel themselves something separate politically from
their Eastern brethren.

To this we must add the factor of and its effect on sea
power in those days and in those waters. The Mediterranean is much more
than two thousand miles long; the only period of the year in which any
effective fighting could be done on its waters under mediaeval conditions
was the late spring, summer and early autumn and it is precisely in those
five months of the year, when alone men could use the Mediterranean for
great expeditions, that offensive military operations were handicapped by
long calms. It is true these were met by the use of many-oared galleys so
as to make fleets as little dependent on wind as possible, but still,
distances of that kind did make unity of action difficult.

Therefore, the Mohammedans of North Africa not being supported at
sea by the wealth and numbers of their brethren from the ports of Asia
Minor and of Syria and the mouths of the Nile, gradually lost control of
maritime communications. They lost, therefore, the Western islands,
Sicily and Corsica and Sardinia, the Balearics and even Malta at the very
moment when they were triumphantly capturing the Eastern islands in the
Aegean Sea. The only form of sea power remaining to the Mohammedan in the
West was the active piracy of the Algerian sailors operating from the
lagoon of Tunis and the half-sheltered bay of Algiers. (The word “Algiers”
comes from the Arabic word for “islands.” There was no proper harbour
before the French conquest of a hundred years ago, but there was a
roadstead partially sheltered by a string of rocks and islets.) These
pirates remained a peril right on until the seventeenth century. It is
interesting to notice, for instance, that the Mohammedan call to prayer
was heard on the coasts of Southern Ireland within the lifetime of Oliver
Cromwell, for the Algerian pirates darted about everywhere, not only in
the Western Mediterranean but along the coasts of the Atlantic, from the
Straits of Gibraltar to the English Channel. They were no longer capable
of conquest, but they could loot and take prisoners whom they held to

While this beating back of the Mohammedan into Africa was going on
to the Western side of Europe, exactly the opposite was happening on the
side. After the Crusades had failed Mohammedans made themselves
secure in Asia Minor and began that long hammering at Constantinople which
finally succeeded.
Constantinople was by far the richest and greatest capital of the
Ancient World; it was the old centre of Greek and Roman civilization and
even when it had lost all direct political power over Italy, and still
more over France, it continued to be revered as the mighty monument of the
Roman past. the Emperor of Constantinople was the direct heir of the
Caesars. On the military side this very strong city supported by great
masses of tribute and by a closely knit, well disciplined army, was the
bulwark of Christendom. So long as Constantinople stood as a Christian
city and Mass was still said in St. Sophia, the doors of Europe were
locked against Islam. It fell in the same generation that saw the
expulsion of the last Mohammedan Government from Southern Spain. Men who
in their maturity marched into Granada with the victorious armies of
Isabella the Catholic could remember how, in early childhood, they had
heard the awful news that Constantinople itself had fallen to the enemies
of the Church.

The fall of Constantinople at the end of the Middle Ages (1453)
was only the beginning of further Mohammedan advances. Islam swept all
over the Balkans; it took all the Eastern Mediterranean islands, Crete and
Rhodes and the rest; it completely occupied Greece; it began pushing up
the Danube valley and northwards into the great plains; it destroyed the
ancient kingdom of Hungary in the fatal battle of Mohacs and at last, in
the first third of the sixteenth century, just at the moment when the
storm of the Reformation had broken out Islam threatened Europe close at
hand, bringing pressure upon the heart of the Empire, at Vienna.

It is not generally appreciated how the success of Luther’s
religious revolution against Catholicism in Germany was due to the way in
which Mohammedan pressure from the East was paralysing the central
authority of the German Emperors. They had to compromise with the leaders
of the religious revolution and try to patch up a sort of awkward peace
between the irreconcilable claims of Catholic authority and Protestant
religious theory in order to meet the enemy at their gates; the enemy
which had already overthrown Hungary and might well overthrow all of
Southern Germany and perhaps reach the Rhine. If Islam had succeeded in
doing this during the chaos of violent civil dissension among the Germans,
due to the launching of the Reformation, our civilization would have been
as effectively destroyed as it would have been if the first rush of the
Mohammedans through Spain had not been checked and beaten back eight
centuries earlier in the middle of France.

This violent Mohammedan pressure on Christendom from the East made
a bid for success by sea as well as by land. The last great wave of Mongol
soldiery, the last great Turkish organization working now from the
conquered capital of Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to
attack Italy by sea and ultimately to recover all that had been lost in
the Western Mediterranean.

There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme
would succeed. A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of
Corinth against the Christian fleet at Lepanto. The Christians won that
naval action and the Western Mediterranean was saved. But it was a very
close thing, and the name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men
with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the
history of the Christian world. It has been a worthy theme for the finest
battle poem of our time, “The Ballad of Lepanto,” by the late Mr. Gilbert

Today we are accustomed to think of the Mohammedan world as
something backward and stagnant, in all material affairs at least. We
cannot imagine a great Mohammedan fleet made up of modern ironclads and
submarines, or a great modern Mohammedan army fully equipped with modern
artillery, flying power and the rest. But not so very long ago, , the Mohammedan
Government centred at Constantinople had better artillery and better army
equipment of every kind than had we Christians in the West. The last
effort they made to destroy Christendom was contemporary with the end of
the reign of Charles II in England and of his brother James and of the
usurper William III. It failed during the last years of the seventeenth
century, only just over two hundred years ago. Vienna, as we saw, was
almost taken and only saved by the Christian army under the command of the
King of Poland on a date that ought to be among the most famous in
history-_September 11, 1683. But the peril remained, Islam was still
immensely powerful within a few marches of Austria and it was not until
the great victory of Prince Eugene at Zenta in 1697 and the capture of
Belgrade that the tide really turned_and by that time we were at the end
of the seventeenth century.

It should be fully grasped that the generation of Dean Swift, the
men who saw the court of Louis XIV in old age, the men who saw the
Hanoverians brought in as puppet Kings for England by the dominating
English wealthy class, the men who saw the apparent extinction of Irish
freedom after the failure of James II’s campaign at the Boyne and the
later surrender of Limerick, all that lifetime which overlapped between
the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century,
was dominated by a vivid memory of a Mohammedan threat which had nearly
nearly made good and which apparently might in the near future be
repeated. The Europeans of that time thought of Mohammedanism as we think
of Bolshevism or as white men in Asia think of Japanese power today.

What happened was something quite unexpected; the Mohammedan power
began to break down on the material side. The Mohammedans lost the power
of competing successfully with the Christians in the making of those
instruments whereby dominion is assured; armament, methods of
communication and all the rest of it. Not only did they not advance, they
went back. Their artillery became much worse than ours. While our use of
the sea vastly increased, theirs sank away till they had no first class
ships with which to fight naval battles.

The eighteenth century is a story of their gradual losing of the
race against the European in material things.

When that vast revolution in human affairs introduced by the
invention of modern machinery began in England and spread slowly
throughout Europe, the Mohammedan world proved itself quite incapable of
taking advantage thereof. During the Napoleonic wars, although supported
by England, Islam failed entirely to meet the French armies of Egypt; its
last effort resulted in complete defeat (the land battle of the Nile).

All during the nineteenth century the process continued. As a
result, Mohammedan North Africa was gradually subjected to European
control; the last independent piece to go being Morocco. Egypt fell under
the control of England. Long before that Greece had been liberated, and
the Balkan States. Half a lifetime ago it was taken for granted everywhere
that the last remnants of Mohammedan power in Europe would disappear.
England bolstered it up and did save Constantinople from being taken by
the Russians in 1877-78, but it seemed only a question of a few years
before the Turks would be wiped out for good. Everyone was waiting for the
end of Islam, on this side of the Bosphorus at least; while in Syria, Asia
Minor and Mesopotamia it was losing all political and military vigour.
After the Great War, what was left of Mohammedan power, even in hither
Asia, was only saved by the violent quarrels between the Allies.

Even Syria and Palestine were divided between France and England.
Mesopotamia fell under the control of England and no menace of Islamic
power remained, though it was still entrenched in Asia Minor and kept a
sort of precarious hold on the thoroughly decayed city of Constantinople
alone. The Mediterranean was gone; every inch of European territory was
gone; all full control over African territory was gone; and the great duel
between Islam and Christendom seemed at last to have been decided in our
own day.

To what was due this collapse? I have never seen an answer to that
question. There was no moral disintegration from within, there was no
intellectual breakdown; you will find the Egyptian or Syrian student
today, if you talk to him on any philosophical or scientific subject which
he has studied, to be the equal of any European. If Islam has no physical
science now applied to any of its problems, in arms and communications, it
has apparently ceased to be part of our world and fallen definitely below
it. Of every dozen Mohammedans in the world today, eleven are actually or
virtually subjects of an Occidental power.It would seem, I repeat, as
though the great duel was now decided.

But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It
has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a
resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the
renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what
has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.

Why this conviction should have arisen in the minds of certain
observers and travellers, such as myself, I will now consider. It is
indeed a vital question, “May not Islam arise again?”

In a sense the question is already answered because Islam has
never departed. It still commands the fixed loyalty and unquestioning
adhesion of all the millions between the Atlantic and the Indus and
further afield throughout scattered communities of further Asia. But I ask
the question in the sense “Will not perhaps the temporal power of Islam
return and with it the menace of an armed Mohammedan world which will
shake off the domination of Europeans_still nominally Christian_and
reappear again as the prime enemy of our civilization?” The future always
comes as a surprise but political wisdom consists in attempting at least
some partial judgment of what that surprise may be. And for my part I
cannot but believe that a main unexpected thing of the future is the
return of Islam. Since religion is at the root of all political movements
and changes and since we have here a very great religion physically
paralysed but morally intensely alive, we are in the presence of an
unstable equilibrium which cannot remain permanently unstable. Let us then
examine the position.

I have said throughout these pages that the particular quality of
Mohammedanism, regarded as a heresy, was its vitality. Alone of all the
great heresies Mohammedanism struck permanent roots, developing a life of
its own, and became at last something like a new religion. So true is this
that today very few men, even among those who are highly instructed in
history, recall the truth that Mohammedanism was essentially in its
origins a new religion, but a .

Like all heresies, Mohammedanism lived by the Catholic truths
which it had retained. Its insistence on personal immortality, on the
Unity and Infinite Majesty of God, on His Justice and Mercy, its
insistence on the equality of human souls in the sight of their
Creator_these are its strength.

But it has survived for other reasons than these; all the other
great heresies had their truths as well as their falsehoods and vagaries,
yet they have died one after the other. The Catholic Church has seen them
pass, and though their evil consequences are still with us the heresies
themselves are dead.

The strength of Calvinism was the truth on which it insisted, the
Omnipotence of God, the dependence and insufficiency of man; but its
error, which was the negation of free-will, also killed it. For men could
not permanently accept so monstrous a denial of common sense and common
experience. Arianism lived by the truth that was in it, to wit, the fact
that the reason could not directly reconcile the opposite aspects of a
great mystery_that of the Incarnation. But Arianism died because it added
to this truth a falsehood, to wit, that the apparent contradiction could
be solved by denying the full Divinity of Our Lord.

And so on with the other heresies. But Mohammedanism, though it
also contained errors side by side with those great truths, flourished
continually, , though
thirteen hundred years have passed since its first great victories in
Syria. The causes of this vitality are very difficult to explore, and
perhaps cannot be reached. For myself I should ascribe it in some part to
the fact that Mohammedanism being a thing from the outside, a heresy that
did not arise from within the body of the Christian community but beyond
its frontiers, has always possessed a reservoir of men, newcomers pouring
in to revivify its energies. But that cannot be a full explanation;
perhaps Mohammedanism would have died but for the successive waves of
recruitment from the desert and from Asia; perhaps it would have died if
the Caliphate at Baghdad had been left entirely to itself; and if the
Moors in the West had not been able to draw upon continual recruitment
from the South.

Whatever the cause be, Mohammedanism has survived, and vigorously
survived. Missionary effort has had no appreciable effect upon it. It
still converts pagan savages wholesale. It even attracts from time to time
some European eccentric, who joins its body. . No fragment of Islam ever abandons its sacred book,
its code of morals, its organized system of prayer, its simple doctrine.

In view of this, anyone with a knowledge of history is bound to
ask himself whether we shall not see in the future a revival of Mohammedan
political power, and the renewal of the old pressure of Islam upon

We have seen how the material political power of Islam declined
very rapidly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have just
followed the story of that decline. When Suleiman the Magnificent was
besieging Vienna he had better artillery, better energies and better
everything than his opponents; Islam was still in the field the material
superior of Christendom_at least it was the superior in fighting power and
fighting instruments. That was within a very few years of the opening of
the eighteenth century. Then came the inexplicable decline. The religion
did not decay, but its political power and with that its material power
declined astonishingly, and in the particular business of arms it declined
most of all. When Dr. Johnson’s father, the bookseller, was setting up
business at Lichfield, the Grand Turk was still dreaded as a potential
conqueror of Europe; before Dr. Johnson was dead no Turkish fleet or army
could trouble the West. Not a lifetime later, the Mohammedan in North
Africa had fallen subject to the French; and those who were then young men
lived to see nearly all Mohammedan territory, except for a decaying
fragment ruled from Constantinople, firmly subdued by the French and
British Governments.

These things being so, the recrudescence of Islam, the possibility
of that terror under which we lived for centuries reappearing, and of our
civilization again fighting for its life against what was its chief enemy
for a thousand years, seems fantastic. Who in the Mohammedan world today
can manufacture and maintain the complicated instruments of modern war?
Where is the political machinery whereby the religion of Islam can play an
equal part in the modern world?

I say the suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic_but
this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate
past:_one might say that they are blinded by it.

Cultures spring from religions; ultimately the vital force which
maintains any culture is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe;(Change the thought to our universe)
the decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to
it_we see that most clearly in the breakdown of Christendom today. The bad
work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the
dissolution of our ancestral doctrines_the very structure of our society
is dissolving.

In the place of the old Christian enthusiasms of Europe there
came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of
patriotism. But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are
making for the destruction of our culture, notably the Jewish Communist
propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our
old-fashioned patriotism.

In Islam there has been no such dissolution of ancestral
doctrine_or, at any rate, nothing corresponding to the universal break-up
of religion in Europe. The whole spiritual strength of Islam is still
present in the masses of Syria and Anatolia, of the East Asian mountains,
of Arabia, Egypt and North Africa.

The final fruit of this tenacity, the second period of Islamic
power, may be delayed:_but I doubt whether it can be permanently

There is nothing in the Mohammedan civilization itself which is
hostile to the development of scientific knowledge or of mechanical
aptitude. I have seen some good artillery work in the hands of Mohammedan
students of that arm; I have seen some of the best driving and maintenance
of mechanical road transport conducted by Mohammedans. There is nothing
inherent to Mohammedanism to make it incapable of modern science and
modern war. Indeed the matter is not worth discussing. It should be
self-evident to anyone who has seen the Mohammedan culture at work. That
culture happens to have fallen back in material applications; there is no
reason whatever why it should not learn its new lesson and become our
equal in all those temporal things which now give us our superiority
over it_whereas in we have fallen inferior to it.

People who question this may be misled by a number of false
suggestions dating from the immediate past. For instance, it was a common
saying during the nineteenth century that Mohammedanism had lost its
political power through its doctrine of fatalism. But that doctrine was in
full vigour when the Mohammedan power was at its height. For that matter
Mohammedanism is no more fatalist than Calvinism; the two heresies
resemble each other exactly in their exaggerated insistence upon the
immutability of Divine decrees.

There was another more intelligent suggestion made in the
nineteenth century, which was this:_that the decline of Islam had
proceeded from its fatal habit of perpetual civil division: the splitting
up and changeability of political authority among the Mohammedans. But
that weakness of theirs was present from the beginning; it is inherent in
the very nature of the Arabian temperament from which they started. Over
and over again this individualism of theirs, this “fissiparous” tendency
of theirs, has gravely weakened them; yet over and over again they have
suddenly united under a leader and accomplished the greatest things.

Now it is probable enough that on these lines_unity under a
leader_the return of Islam may arrive. There is no leader as yet, but
enthusiasm might bring one and there are signs enough in the political
heavens today of what we may have to expect from the revolt of Islam at
some future date_perhaps not far distant.

After the Great War the Turkish power was suddenly restored by one
such man. Another such man in Arabia, with equal suddenness, affirmed
himself and destroyed all the plans laid for the incorporation of that
part of the Mohammedan world into the English sphere. Syria, which is the
connecting link, the hinge and the pivot of the whole Mohammedan world,
is, upon the map, and superficially, divided between an English and a
French mandate; but the two Powers intrigue one against the other and are
equally detested by their Mohammedan subjects, who are only kept down
precariously by force. There has been bloodshed under the French mandate
more than once and it will be renewed[2]; while under the English mandate
the forcing of an alien Jewish colony upon Palestine has raised the
animosity of the native Arab population to white heat. Meanwhile a
ubiquitous underground Bolshevist propaganda is working throughout Syria
and North Africa continually, against the domination of Europeans over the
original Mohammedan population.

Lastly there is this further point to which attention should be
paid:_the attachment (such as it is) of the Mohammedan world in India to
English rule is founded mainly upon the gulf between the Mohammedan and
Hindu religions. Every step towards a larger political independence for
either party strengthens the Mohammedan desire for renewed power. The
Indian Mohammedan will more and more tend to say: “If I am to look after
myself and not to be favoured as I have been in the past by the alien
European master in India_which I once ruled_I will rely upon the revival
of Islam.” For all these reasons (and many more might be added) men of
foresight may justly apprehend, or at any rate expect, the return of

It would seem as though the Great Heresies were granted an effect
proportionate to the lateness of their appearance in the story of

The earlier heresies on the Incarnation, when they died out, left
no enduring relic of their presence. Arianism was revived for a moment in
the general chaos of the Reformation. Sundry scholars, including Milton in
England and presumably Bruno in Italy and a whole group of Frenchmen, put
forward doctrines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which
attempted to reconcile a modified materialism and a denial of the Trinity
with some part of Christian religion. Milton’s effort was particularly
noticeable. English official history has, of course, suppressed it as much
as possible, by the usual method of scamping all emphasis upon it. The
English historians do not deny Milton’s materialism; quite recently
several English writers on Milton have discoursed at length on his refusal
of full Divinity to Our Lord. But this effort at suppression will break
down, for one cannot ever hide a thing so important as Milton’s attack,
not only on the Incarnation, but on the Creation, and on the Omnipotence
of Almighty God.

But of that I will speak later when we come to the Protestant
movement. It remains generally true that the earlier heresies not only
died out but left no enduring memorial of their action on European

But Mohammedanism coming as much later than Arianism as Arianism
was later than the Apostles has left a profound effect on the political
structure of Europe and upon language: even to some extent on science.

Politically, it destroyed the independence of the Eastern Empire
and though various fragments have, some of them, revived in maimed
fashion, the glory and unity of Byzantine rule disappeared for ever under
the attacks of Islam. The Russian Tsardom, oddly enough, took over a
maimed inheritance from Byzantium, but it was a very poor reflection of
the old Greek splendour. The truth is that Islam permanently wounded the
east of our civilization in such fashion the barbarism partly returned. On
North Africa its effect was almost absolute and remains so to this day.
Europe has been quite unable has been quite unable to reassert herself
there. The great Greek tradition has utterly vanished from the Valley of
the Nile and from the Delta, unless one calls Alexandria some sort of
relic thereof, with its mainly European civilization, French and Italian,
but beyond that right up to the Atlantic the old order failed apparently
for ever. The French in taking over the administration of Barbary and
planting therein a considerable body of their own colonists, of Spaniards,
and of Italians, have left the main structure of North African society
wholly Mohammedan; and there is no sign of its becoming anything else.

In what measure Islam affected our science and our philosophy is
open to debate. Its effect has been, of course, heavily exaggerated,
because to exaggerate it was a form of attack upon Catholicism. The main
part of what writers on mathematics, physical science and geography, from
the Islamic side, writers who wrote in Arabic, who professed either the
full doctrine of Islam or some heretical form of it (sometimes almost
atheist) was drawn from the Greek and Roman civilization which Islam had
overwhelmed. It remains true that Islam handed on through such writers a
great part of the advances in those departments of knowledge which the
Graeco-Roman civilization had made.

During the Dark Ages and even during the early Middle Ages, or at
any rate the very early Middle Ages, the Mohammedan world detained the
better part of academic teaching and we had to turn to it for our own

The effect of Mohammedanism on Christian language, though of
course a superficial matter, is remarkable. We find it in a host of words,
including such very familiar ones as “algebra,” “alcohol,” “admiral,” etc.
We find it in the terms of heraldry, and we find it abundantly in place
names. Indeed, it is remarkable to see how place names of Roman and Greek
origin have been replaced by totally different Semitic terms. Half the
rivers of Spain, especially in the southern part of the country, include
the term “wadi,” and it is curious to note how far in the Western
Hemisphere “Guadeloupe” preserves an Arabic form drawn from Estremadura.

The towns in North Africa and the villages for that matter as a
rule were rebaptized, the names of the most famous_for instance, Carthage
and Caesarea, disappeared. Others arose spontaneously, such as “Algiers,”
a name derived from the Arabic phrase for “the islands”_the old roadstead
of Algiers owing its partial security to a line of rocky islets parallel
with the coast.

The whole story of this replacing of the original names of towns
and rivers by Semitic forms is one of the most valuable examples we have
of the disconnection between language and race. The race in North Africa
from Libya westward is much of what it has been from the beginning of
recorded time. It is Berber. Yet the Berber language survives only in a
few hill districts and in desert tribes. The Punic, the Greek, the Latin,
the common speech of Tripoli (a surviving Greek name, by the way), Tunis,
and all Barbary, have quite gone. Such an example should have given pause
to the academic theorists who talked of the English as “Anglo-Saxon,” and
argued from their place names that the English had come over from North
Germany and Denmark in little boats, exterminated everybody east of
Cornwall and replanted it with their own communities. Yet of such
fantasies a good deal survives, most strongly, of course, at Oxford and


1. It was from this fact that certain French writers opposed to
the Church got their enormous blunder, that the Immaculate Conception came
to us from Mohammedan sources! Gibbon, of course, copies his masters
blindly here–as he always does, and he repeats the absurdity in his
“decline and Fall.”

Abortion Politicians

Pro-Abortion Politicians Ineligible for Communion

Protecting marriage is protecting children

The 12,000-word interview, released Thursday in 16 Jesuit magazines worldwide, touched on many of the most polarizing topics of the day: the place of gays and women in the church, abortion, and issues of faith and religious doubt.

In the interview, Francis says the church has been too focused on abortion, gay marriage and contraception and suggests finding a “new balance” to deliver the Roman Catholic message.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Francis says. “This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

The pope breaks no new ground on doctrine, but the remarks underscore his attitude six months into his papacy, showing a desire to cement the perception of the Catholic Church as a place of healing and mercy, not judgment and finger-pointing, theologians say.

“He wants to change people’s perception of the church’s moral teaching,” says Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He says it was striking that Francis compared the church to a field hospital, a spiritual place for healing in the face of today’s moral and social dilemmas.

Catholics, even conservative ones, say the interview further firms up his place as the “people’s pope,” says Judie Brown, president and co-founder of the American Life League, a Catholic organization that works against abortion. “He’s saying that as Catholics we need to live our faith instead of beating people over the head with it.”

What needs to change is how church leaders and members talk about them, she says. “We should do it with love and charity instead of with a hammer.”

Francis says the church has become “obsessed” with issues such as gay marriage and abortion, and that if someone claims answers on issues of faith, they are “a false prophet.”

The interviews were conducted in Italian over the course of three sittings last month in the pope’s modest Vatican apartment with Father Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit like Francis who is the editor of La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit publication.The pope reviewed the text of the interviews before they were translated.

Although Francis has not broken with previous teachings on many key issues, his humble manner and ease of explaining difficult theological issues in laymen’s terms have met with strong responses among Catholics, even lapsed Catholics, and other Christians.

“For my whole adult life, I have considered myself a lapsed Catholic,” says Alessandro Di Cristofaro, a 44-year-old university lecturer in ancient history in Rome. “But when I hear the pope speak, it draws me back to the church like when I was a child. I have even gone back to Mass a few times in recent weeks.”

Anna Maria di Pietroantonio, 39, a Rome health care worker, agrees.
“When I speak to my friends about it, we all agree it feels like a friendly parish priest who somehow became pope,” she says.

Others see Francis as moving away from Biblical teachings. Jason Clendenen, an evangelical Christian and church administrator in California who expressed dismay on Twitter with the pope’s interview, says Francis is shrinking away from commenting on sinful behavior. He says Francis seems too accepting of sinners such as gays and lesbians.
[Editor’s note: Did not Christ accept in dialogue sinners such as prostitutes and culpable tax collectors.]

Pope Francis makes simple, motions that invite people to talk and think.




Pro-Abortion Politicians Ineligible for CommunionPaul Rondeau 2013-05-08
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 7, 2013 Media Contact: Paul E. Rondeau
Tel: 540.659.4171 E-Mail:

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2013 – In a letter to the bishops of Argentina sent in late March, Pope Francis directed them to govern the Church there following the Aparecida Document. The text states, in part, “[people] cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act with deeds or words against the commandments, particularly when abortion, euthanasia, and other grave crimes against life and family are encouraged. This responsibility weighs particularly over legislators, heads of governments, and health professionals.”

Judie Brown, president and cofounder of American Life League, and Michael Hichborn, director of Defend the Faith for American Life League, sent the following letter to all U.S. Catholic bishops:

Your Excellency,
RE: Pope Francis and Canon 915

We are renewed in our joy over the election of Pope Francis. One of the reasons for our happiness is the Holy Father’s reiteration of Catholic teaching as enunciated in canon 915. The report, published May 4 by LifeSiteNews and Breitbart News, states in part: “Pope Francis has directed the bishops of Argentina, his home country, to govern the Church there following a document that makes clear that Holy Communion should be disallowed for any person who facilitates abortion, including politicians. ‘These are the guidelines we need for this time in history,’ the pope wrote to the bishops.”

We pray that these words will be an encouragement to you as well because, like Argentina, the United States has her share of Catholics in public life who persist in their support of abortion while, at the same time, receiving Christ in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

We write to ask you, in view of this recent news report, to act on Pope Francis’ call and deny the sacrament of Christ’s real presence-body, blood, soul, and divinity-to every pro-abortion Catholic in public life who has not repented of his support for the heinous crime of abortion.


Protecting marriage is protecting children
Pope tells Pontifical Council February 08, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI met on February 8 with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who have gathered for their plenary meeting under the direction of the council’s president’ Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. The Pope encouraged the group in its studies on the themes: “the family, subject of evangelization” and “the family, resource for society.”

The Pontiff devoted some time to a discussion of the Pontifical Council’s plans to produce a new document on preparation for marriage. Citing the work of his predecessor John Paul II, Pope Benedict said that there are three essential types of preparation: remote, when children are trained to have a healthy attitude toward marriage and human sexuality; proximate, when engaged couples learn together about the Church’s approach to Christian marriage; and immediate, when the couple makes final spiritual preparations to enter a marital union.

Pope Benedict called the group’s attention to the UN discussion of the rights of children. “The family founded on marriage between a man and a woman is the greatest help that can be given to children,” he said. “Supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and stability is the best way to protect the rights and the real needs of children.” The Pope acknowledged with regret in his address that some Catholic priests had failed to respect the rights of children by abusing them. He vowed that the Church “hasn’t, and won’t ever, stop deploring and condemning” their misdeeds.


The 16 Documents

You can find all of the documents of Vatican II at this site:
All you have to do at this site is point your cursor at the document name and click on it.

1. Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963.

2. Inter Mirifica, Decree On the Means of Social Communication, 1963.

3. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution On the Church, 1964.

4. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Decree On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite,1964.

5. Unitatis Redintegratio, Decree on Ecumenism, 1964.

6. Christus Dominus, Decree Conceming the Pastoral Office of Bishops ln the Church,1965.

7. Perfectae Caritatis, Decree On Renewal of Religious Life, 1965.

8. Optatam Totius, Decree On Priestly Training, 1965.

9. Gravissimum Educationis, Declaration On Christian Education, 1965.

10. Nostra Aetate, Declaration On the Relation Of the Church to Non-Christian ReIigions,1965.

11. Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, 1965

12. Agostolicam Actuositatem, Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity, 1965.

13. Dignitatis Humanae, Declaration On Religious Freedom, 1965.

14. Ad Gentes, Decree On the Mission Activity of the Church, 1965.

15. Presb|@rorum Ordinis, Decree On the Ministry and Life of Priests, 1965.

16. Gaudium et Sges, Pastoral Constitution On the Church In the Modern World,1965.

Francis and non-Catholic religions

What was Francis’ relationship with non-Catholic and non-Christian religions.

Having established that Francis was firmly Catholic, let’s look at his relationship with non-Catholic and non-Christian religions of his time. I believe this is important since the Church of our times remains committed to a more open relationship with non-Catholic religions since the Second Vatican Council and her documents (e.g. Nostra Aetate, Gaudium et Spes, Ad Gentes, and Lumen Gentium). Further, our own Secular Franciscan Rule says:

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ. A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ. (SFO Rule 13)

In this, St. Francis can be an example for us, as he is often held up as a model of dialogue, ecumenism, and universal brotherhood; he is viewed as a gentle soul always open to dialogue and desiring to talk with heretics, Saracens, and robbers.

However, sometimes when we look at Francis in these areas, we often come across two extremes: the side that genuinely wishes to foster world peace and mutual understanding among different peoples and religions look to Francis for inspiration and consider him practically the patron of dialogue and ecumenism. On the other side of the spectrum, there is a tendency to be suspect of many of these contemporary attitudes; they view them with suspicion and are ready to cry “religious syncretism and New Ageism.” They will reject notions that Francis sought “universal brotherhood and oneness,” and instead believe that Francis held to the traditional teaching, nulla salus extra ecclesiam (there is no salvation outside the Church).

So first, let’s look at Francis’s own writings to see what he really believed. Then we will consider the spirit of Francis in modern times.

Francis wrote:

Therefore, all those who saw the Lord Jesus according to his humanity and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that He is the true Son of God were condemned. And now in the same way, all those who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, which is sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that it is truly the most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. (Admonitions 1)


In regards to this writing on the Eucharist, it is most likely a tract against the heretics who did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Francis compares those who lived among Christ and did not believe in his divinity (i.e., the Jews) to those of his day who did not believe in the Eucharist (i.e., the heretics). In both cases, he states that they were condemned for their non-belief.


He also wrote:


All those men and women who are not [living] in penance and do not receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; [who] practice vice and sin and follow [the ways of] wicked concupiscence and the desires of the flesh [who] do not observe what they have promised to the Lord, and bodily serve the world by the desires of the flesh, the anxieties of the world and the cares of this life: such people are held fast by the devil, whose children they are and whose words they perform. (The first version of the Letter to the Faithful, chap 2)


In this writing, too, we see Francis’s attitudes towards those who are not living the authentic Christian life in terms of seeking penance (conversion), receiving Eucharist, who are living sinful lives, who break their vows, who give in to bodily temptations, or who are preoccupied with the cares of the world. He says that these people are actually serving the devil.

In another letter to the ministers, in speaking about the Eucharist Francis reiterates that, “no one can be saved unless he receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.” (1st Letter to the Custodians, 2).

Now let’s look at another writing where he deals specifically with the way the friars should interact with non-believers. Here we can enter into the mind of Francis. I printed it in its entirety here:


1. The Lord says: Behold, I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves. 2. Therefore, be prudent as serpents and simple as doves (Mt 10:16). 3. Therefore, any brother who, by divine inspiration, desires to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should go with the permission of his minister and servant. 4. And the minister should give [these brothers] permission and not oppose them, if he shall see that they are fit to be sent; for he shall be bound to give an account to the Lord (cf. Lk 16:2) if he has proceeded without discretion in this or in other matters. 5. As for the brothers who go, they can live spiritually among [the Saracens and nonbelievers] in two ways. 6. One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake (1 Pet 2:13) and to acknowledge that they are Christians. 7. Another way is to proclaim the word of God when they see that it pleases the Lord, so that they believe in the all-powerful God—Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit—the Creator of all, in the Son Who is the Redeemer and Savior, and that they be baptized and become Christians; because whoever has not been born again of water and the Holy Spirit cannot enter into the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:5). 8. They can say to [the Saracens] and to others these and other things which will have pleased the Lord, for the Lord says in the Gospel: Everyone who acknowledges me before men I will also acknowledge before my Father Who is in heaven (Mt 10:32). 9. And: Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in His majesty and that of the Father and the angels (Lk 9:26). 10. And all the brothers, wherever they may be, should remember that they gave themselves and abandoned their bodies to the Lord Jesus Christ. 11. And for love of Him, they must make themselves vulnerable to their enemies, both visible and invisible, because the Lord says: Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (cf. Lk 9:24) in eternal life (Mt 25:46). 12. Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Mt 5:10). 13. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (Jn 15:20). 14. And: If they persecute you in one city, flee to another (cf. Mt 10:23). 15. Blessed are you (Mt 5:11) when people shall hate you (Lk 6:22) and malign (Mt 5:11) and persecute you and drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as evil (Lk 6:22) and utter every kind of slander against you because of me (Mt 5:11). 16. Rejoice on that day and be glad (Lk 6:23) because your reward is very great in heaven (cf. Mt 5:12). 17. And I say to you, my friends, do not be frightened by these things (Lk 12:4) 18. and do not fear those who kill the body (Mt 10:28) and after that can do no more (Lk 12:4). 19. Take care not to be disturbed (Mt 24:6). 20. For through your patience, you will possess your souls (Lk 21:19); 21. and whoever perseveres to the end will be saved (Mt 10:22; 24:13). (The Earlier Rule of 1221, Chap. XVI)


On the surface, these writings may seem harsh and suggest that Francis was strict and unyielding when it comes to matters and practice of the faith. They seem to contrast with the gentle, peace-loving Francis that has so often been portrayed in contemporary books and movies – the ecumenical man who loves everyone equally, who believes in universal brotherhood. However, first of all it is important to read Francis’s writings in their entirety. We cannot get a full understanding of the man by taking bits and pieces of his writings here or there as if to prove a point. The entire corpus of writings should be read. In fact, I would encourage anyone to do just that.

So, let us look a little deeper. First, we should remember that Francis was strongly influenced by the culture and Church teachings of his time, in particular the Fourth Lateran Council. The Council was called in 1215 by Pope Innocent III to clarify Church teachings in response to the heresies and to contend with the issue of the Holy Land. The first canon was a creed (Firmiter credimus) against the Cathars and Waldensians, in which transubstantiation was held up. Other canons addressed included: the Eucharist and the care of churches; procedures and penalties against the heretics and their protectors were spelled out – the language used against them was harsh and condemnatory; papal primacy since antiquity was proclaimed; vices among the clergy were admonished; morals among the faithful were held up. It should also be noted that a military campaign, or a Crusade, against the Cathars in southern France was called by Pope Innocent III over the course of twenty years from 1209-1229. This was the last resort after diplomacy, theological teachings and corrections, excommunications, and counter-preachings had failed to stem the growth of Catharism. But perhaps most of all, the Fourth Lateran Council was used substantially to promote the Fifth Crusade, which took place from 1215-21. Religious war against the Saracens to reclaim Christian places in the Holy Land had been intermittent since the first Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095; thus, it was being preached from the highest places in Christendom. In fact, since the first Crusade, indulgences were granted to the Crusaders who fought to free the Holy Land.

So given the historical context in which Francis lived – an era of great conflict between Christianity and Islam – it is a wonder that Francis’s writings were not harsher than they actually were. Despite all the rhetoric and clamoring in favor of war, Francis was set apart: we do not have any writings of St. Francis himself supporting armed Crusades or violence against non-believers in any of his writings. And there were plenty of religious friars, priests, and nuns who did support such violence and bloodshed. Instead of seeking to kill the Cathars, Francis sought to witness to them. Instead of seeking to fight and kill the Saracens, Francis desired to preach to them.

Let’s look in greater detail at what happened in 1219 during the Fifth Crusade. Together with Brother Pacifico, Francis courageously walked across the battle lines in Damietta, Egypt armed only with his tunic and cross hoping to meet with the Sultan, Malek al-Kamil. According to the 13th-century traditional sources, Francis sought to convert the Sultan to Christianity fully expecting, even joyfully hoping for, martyrdom. This traditional account is enshrined in one of the frescoes in the upper basilica of St. Francis, recounted by St. Bonaventure and depicted by Giotto. In it, Francis seeks martyrdom and challenges the Sultan’s imams to a trial by fire; the one whose religion is true would be unharmed. In the fresco, the imams turn away cowering, while Francis stands with conviction and resolution; and although the Sultan did not convert, he was so impressed by Francis’s humility and faith. Yet, what actually transpired is now the subject of debate. There are some contemporary scholars who believe that Francis was merely hoping to dialogue with the sultan and that his encounter with Islam influenced him.

Personally, I believe that it is silly and even disingenuous to interpret Francis of the 13th century through the lens of modern-day, liberal ecumenism. When Francis converted to the life of a penitent and signed his tunic with a cross, he became a “cross bearer,” a type of crusader. In fact, the crusaders wore a cross on their armor. And even though Francis had renounced the desire to become a knight, now he had become a warrior without arms or armor. He saw himself and his friars as fighting a spiritual crusade with the weapons of the word and cross. We will never know exactly what was spoken between Francis and the sultan.

Nonetheless, it is true is that he went peacefully in an attempt to preach to him and in hopes of stopping the fighting. I believe that Francis would not have supported violence or the Crusades whether toward the Saracens or the Cathars. His experience in war and his renunciation of arms make that clear. It is clear is that Francis chose peace and dialogue in an era of violence and hatred. Certainly, his faith and meekness impressed the Sultan and most likely led him to turn over the administration and control of the Christian holy sites in his territory to the friars. Surely, all can agree that Francis’s peaceful demeanor are what led to him being received in audience with the Sultan in the first place. Today in Assisi, in the hall of relics at the basilica of St. Francis, you can still see the gifts from the caliph to Francis: a piece of ivory horn in addition to a prayer mat. And in Holy Land, there have been Franciscan friars ever since. All the major Christian shrines today in Israel and surrounding areas in the Holy Land — from Judea to the Galilee — are all administered by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. The friars have three functions: maintain the shrines, offer hospitality to pilgrims, and work with local Catholics.

So if Francis did not condone violence against the Saracens, how did he approach them? In his only writing that mentions the Saracens (quoted above), Francis proposed two approaches in dealing with them: 1. not arguing, but instead being subject to them; and 2: proclaiming the word of God when appropriate. I think “being subject to them” is pertinent. We have spent a great deal talking about the “Great Chain of Being” so ingrained in the culture of the high Middle Ages. Francis wished to be “minor” or “lesser” to everyone – priests, nobility, wealthy people; here, he states his desire to place himself under even the Saracens. We see in this Jesus meekly and humbly going to the cross to die without wishing to fight.

Next, we see Francis emphasizing that it is important to proclaim Christianity when appropriate – always in a way that is nonviolent, open, and honest. He models the Scripture: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15-f).


Question: How do you relate to those who are not Catholic? Do you feel like we, as Catholics, possess all the truth and that others are outside of it? Or do you seek to witness like Francis in imitation of Christ in all humility, subjection to the other, with “gentleness and reverence”?


So how does Francis’s experience relate to us today? Instead of seeking to imitate his actions or beliefs exactly, we instead look to him to find inspiration to make his story relevant to us today. As Francis was a man seeking to allow the Church to form him and his beliefs, we do the same today. Today, we have a number of documents written before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council that guide us in our relations with other non-Catholic Christians as well as non-Christians.


Pope John Paul II instructs in dialogue:


It should be repeated that, on the part of the Church and her members, dialogue, whatever form it takes (and these forms can be and are very diverse, since the very concept of dialogue has an analogical value) can never begin from an attitude of indifference to the truth. On the contrary, it must begin from a presentation of the truth, offered in a calm way, with respect for the intelligence and consciences of others. The dialogue of reconciliation can never replace or attenuate the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel, the precise goal of which is conversion from sin and communion with Christ and the Church. It must be at the service of the transmission and realization of that truth through the means left by Christ to the Church for the pastoral activity of reconciliation, namely catechesis and penance.(Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 25.)


So when engaging in dialogue, the foundation should always begin with the presentation of the truth of the Gospel. Yet, it is obvious that clearly one does not have to be Catholic in order to love, sacrifice of oneself, believe, hope, do heroic things, etc. Further, our Biblical tradition informs us that all people are created good in the image of God regardless of one’s particular (or lack of) belief, nationality, creed, etc. All are good and in the image of God.

Further, when we dialogue with others, we are witnessing to the truth not just of our faith, but to one of the characteristics of God, which is that of being in relationship with others. Just as God exists three in one and there is relationship between the three Persons of the Trinity, so do we need to be in relationship with other people. We do this in our communities and fraternity, with our spouses and families, in prayer groups and spiritual direction, in fellowship with those in our parish. Community is an important aspect of being human and it is life-giving. When we isolate, we become sick mentally and spiritually. So to be in dialogue with others, including non-believers, is to participate more fully not just in our humanity, but also in the divinity of God.

Therefore, dialogue does involve an aspect of seeking the truth of the other person. And we do not have to feel that by accepting the truth of another person, even if he/she is outside the Church, somehow violates the beliefs of our own truths. Because, as Catholics, we believe that all goodness, truth, flows from God. When others “outside the Church” participate in such things, they are actually participating in the truth of God, possibly without knowing it. As we are all created in his image, we reflect God. Therefore, we can reflect God, believe in God, participate in his truth even, without even being aware of it.

So there is a struggle between proclaiming and truly believing our faith while at the same time recognizing the truth within others’ faith. How do we admit that there are others outside our faith (extra ecclesiam) who hold to some degree of truth (which can even be instructive to us) without seeming to downplay our own faith? More pointedly, when we dialogue, do we do so in order to observe the truth of others or to communicate our own truth? And if that happens, how do we avoid falling into a form of relativism or concluding that ultimately there are no ultimate truths? Or, on the other hand, how do we dialogue while avoiding triumphalism, isolationism, or imperialism?

Let’s look at some other documents, including Dominus Iesus, the much disliked and criticized document that was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. These can help us in these questions.


It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Bearing in mind this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection on the existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God’s salvific plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium.  The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has stated that: “the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 62). The content of this participated mediation should be explored more deeply, but must remain always consistent with the principle of Christ’s unique mediation: “Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his.”(John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5). Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.


This is from Lumen Gentium from Vatican II:

For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source. (Lumen Gentium, 62)


So here we have some good guidance as to how to dialogue. These two documents are dealing with salvation and redemption and how one is saved. Our Catholic teaches us that salvation “is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.” Yet, the question becomes, how do those “outside the faith” relate to this mystery?

Lumen Gentium, in Chapter II when dealing with the People of God, also added guidance when it stated that various Christian communities are linked to the Church; i.e. Orthodox and Protestant, but even non-Christian religions such as Jews, Muslims, and even “people who strive to live a good life.”


15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. … . 16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.



Dialogue can help us relate to others better. And how does this translate into reality? Our new Pope Francis, recently said at a daily Mass that the culture of encounter is the foundation of peace. “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae, a few weeks ago.


The Gospel that day spoke about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

Pope Benedict’s Message

“Blessed is the servant who has faith in the clergy who live uprightly according to the Roman Church.”
“We must honor all … those who minister the most holy divine words and respect them as those who minister to us spirit and life.” St. Francis

Protecting marriage is protecting children

Saint Francis of Assisi – Catechesis by Pope Benedict



Universe is product of design, not chance


Pope Explains his Authorty


Pope Benedict said that Christ had given his apostles, and the bishops who succeeded them, the duty to ensure that the faith is passed along without dilution or distortion. Although the Pope “must be aware that he is a weak and fragile man,” he cannot avoid this responsibility, the Holy Father continued. He must execute his teaching function, fulfilling the mandate from Christ, because “when Sacred Scripture is separated from the living voice of the Church, it falls victims to the disputes among experts.”
The Pope acknowledged that papal authority is a stumbling block for some people, who see the teaching magisterium as a threat to freedom of belief and of conscience. But he explained that the Pope’s authority is not really his own, since “the ministry of the Pope is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word.” As teacher, he continue, the Pontiff “binds himself and the Church in obedience to God’s Word, in the face of all attempts to adapt that Word, or water it down, and in the face of all forms of opportunism.” Benedict XVI went on to say that his predecessor, John Paul II, was carrying out this task when he repeatedly demanded respect fro human life, in the face of mounting public opposition. “The freedom to kill is not true freedom, a but a tyranny that reduces human beings to slavery,” he said.


January 06, 2011 Universe is product of design, not chance, Pope says

The universe reflects “the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily as he celebrated Mass for the feast of the Epiphany, January 6.

Commenting on the visit of the Magi, the Holy Father said that the wise men who followed a star recognized the plan that is inherent in all creation. The universe is not driven by random chance, he said. “In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, its greatness and rationality, we cannot fail to read the eternal rationality,” the Pope said. “We can not help but be guided by it to the one God, Creator of heaven and earth.”

A Fox News report on the homily drew the curious conclusion that the Pope was speaking about the “Big Bang” theory. But in fact the Pontiff spoke about the limitations of all human ideas about life—political as well as scientific—and all human plans that tend to shut out God. He reflected on how King Herod feared the Christ Child, because of jealousy for his royal power. All believers should learn from that story, he said:

Herod is a character whom we do not like, whom we instinctively judge in a negative way for its brutality. But we should ask ourselves: maybe there is something of Herod in us? Perhaps we, too, on occasion, see God as a kind of rival?
At his midday audience on January 6, the Pope sent his greetings to the Eastern Christian churches that celebrate Christmas on January 7. He offered a prayer that all of Christ’s faithful would be “strengthened in faith, hope, and charity.” In an apparent reference to Christians who have been the victims of violent attacks, he prayed that “comfort be given to communities that are suffering.”

Benedict XVI Stresses Ethics in Politics


Says Lack of Moral Principles Threatens Democracy
LONDON, SEPT. 17, 2010 (
Benedict XVI is underlining the need to base political decisions in ethical foundations and objective moral principles, without which democracy is threatened.

Today in London, the Pope addressed representatives of civil society, the academic, cultural and entrepreneurial world, the diplomatic corps and religious leaders at Westminster Hall. The meeting took place on the second day of the Pontiff’s four-day state visit to the United Kingdom.

The Holy Father affirmed, “There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world.”

“So too in the political field,” he added, “the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore.”

Benedict XVI stated that the central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found?”

The Pope highlighted the example of St. Thomas More, “the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.”

The Pontiff continued, “The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.”

“Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law,” he observed.

Common good
“Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach,” the Holy Father noted, “in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.”

He continued: “Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend?

“By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?”

“These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse,” Benedict XVI stated.

“If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident,” he said. “Herein lies the real challenge for democracy.”

“The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation,” the Pope affirmed.

“According to this understanding,” he continued, “the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers — still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion — but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.”

The Pontiff said, “This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith — the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief — need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.”

Society is Losing Religion, Says Benedict XVI


Religion is losing favor in society, which is a threat to the basic foundations of marriage and respect for the person from conception to natural death, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today upon receiving the letters of credence of Walter Jürgen Schmid, the new German ambassador to the Holy See.

In his address, the Pope lamented that “there is no strong attachment to religion” in society in general, and that faith in the “personal God” of Christianity is being left to the side in favor of a notion of a “god” who is “a supreme, mysterious and indeterminate being, who has only a vague relationship” with mankind.

“If one abandons faith in a personal God, the alternative arises of a ‘god’ who does not know, does not listen and does not speak,” the Pontiff warned. “And, more than ever before, does not have a will.

“If God does not have his own will, in the end good and evil are not distinguished, good and evil are no longer in contradiction to one another, but are in an opposition in which one is complementary of the other.

“Thus man loses his moral and spiritual strength, necessary for the complete development of the person. Social action is dominated increasingly by private interest or by the calculation of power, at the expense of society.

“Instead, if God is a Person — and the order of creation as well as the presence of Christians of conviction in society is a sign of this — it follows that an order of values is legitimized.”


Benedict XVI also reflected on the concept of marriage, stating that it is “manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is also directed to the transmission of human life.”

He said the Church “cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply a reappraisal of alternative models of the life of a couple and of the family,” which would “contribute to the weakening of the principles of the Natural Law and thus to relativizing the whole of legislation and also to confusion on the values in society.”

The Pope also spoke of the need to be “diligent” with regard to the advances in biotechnology and medicine, asserting that the “human person be protected precisely in a situation of weakness,” and that the person “always has priority in regard to other objectives.”

“We have the duty to study diligently to what point these methods can be of help to man and where, instead, it is a question of the manipulation of man, of violation of his integrity and dignity,” the Pontiff noted. “We cannot reject this progress, but we must be very diligent.”

“Once one begins to distinguish — and this now happens often in the maternal womb — between a worthy life and a life unworthy of living, no other phase of life will be safe, and even less so old age and infirmity,” the Holy Father added.

At the end of his address, Benedict XVI encouraged the government of Germany to offer a “pondered and pacifying” contribution to the current media culture.

“The construction of a human society requires fidelity to truth,” he affirmed, lamenting that at times the news cycle is driven by competition instead of facts.

“The subject becomes particularly problematic,” he noted, “when authoritative persons take a public position in this respect, without being able to confirm the aspects adequately.”

No Government Can Make Love Superfluous


Without charity work, society cannot last long, Benedict XVI says, since even in the most just society, love will always be necessary.
Referencing his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” he also affirmed that “love will always be necessary, even in the most just society.”
“Love of neighbor cannot be delegated,” he said, and “the state and politics, even with their necessary concern for well-being, cannot replace it.”
“There is no just state legislation that can make the service of love superfluous,” the Bishop of Rome contended. “Whoever wants to have nothing to do with love, disposes himself to have nothing to do with the person as person; there will always be suffering that needs consolation, help.”

“… volunteers are not ‘provisional resources’ in the social network, but persons who really contribute to delineate the human and Christian face of society,” he said. “Without charitable work, the common good and society will not be able to last long, because their progress and dignity depend in large measure precisely on those persons who do more than strictly fulfill their duty.”
Benedict XVI encouraged the civil protection workers to be “living icons of the good Samaritan, paying attention to your neighbor, recalling the dignity of the person and inspiring hope.”
Your mission,” he said, “does not consist only in the management of emergencies, but in a great conscientious and meritorious contribution to the realization of the common good,” which “represents always the horizon of human coexistence also and above all in moments of great trials.”


Protecting marriage is protecting children


Pope tells Pontifical Council February 08, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI met on February 8 with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who have gathered for their plenary meeting under the direction of the council’s president’ Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. The Pope encouraged the group in its studies on the themes: “the family, subject of evangelization” and “the family, resource for society.”
The Pontiff devoted some time to a discussion of the Pontifical Council’s plans to produce a new document on preparation for marriage. Citing the work of his predecessor John Paul II, Pope Benedict said that there are three essential types of preparation: remote, when children are trained to have a healthy attitude toward marriage and human sexuality; proximate, when engaged couples learn together about the Church’s approach to Christian marriage; and immediate, when the couple makes final spiritual preparations to enter a marital union.
Pope Benedict called the group’s attention to the UN discussion of the rights of children. “The family founded on marriage between a man and a woman is the greatest help that can be given to children,” he said. “Supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and stability is the best way to protect the rights and the real needs of children.” The Pope acknowledged with regret in his address that some Catholic priests had failed to respect the rights of children by abusing them. He vowed that the Church “hasn’t, and won’t ever, stop deploring and condemning” their misdeeds.


Saint Francis of Assisi – Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI


Dear brothers and sisters,

In a recent catechesis, I already illustrated the providential role that the Order of Friars Minor and the Order of Preachers, founded respectively by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic Guzmán, had in the renewal of the Church of their time. Today I would like to present to you the figure of Francis, an authentic “giant” of holiness, who continues to fascinate very many people of every age and every religion.

“A son is born to the world.” With these words, in the Divine Comedy (Paradiso, Canto XI), the greatest Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, alludes to Francis’ birth, which occurred at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, in Assisi. Belonging to a wealthy family — his father was a textile merchant — Francis enjoyed a carefree adolescence and youth, cultivating the chivalrous ideals of the time. When he was 20 he took part in a military campaign, and was taken prisoner. He became ill and was released. After his return to Assisi, a slow process of spiritual conversion began in him, which led him to abandon gradually the worldly lifestyle he had practiced until then.

Striking at this time are the famous episodes of the meeting with the leper — to whom Francis, getting off his horse, gave the kiss of peace; and the message of the Crucifix in the little church of San Damiano. Three times the crucified Christ came to life and said to him: “Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins.” This simple event of the Word of the Lord heard in the church of San Damiano hides a profound symbolism. Immediately, St. Francis is called to repair this little church, but the ruinous state of this building is a symbol of the tragic and disturbing situation of the Church itself at that time, with a superficial faith that does not form and transform life, with a clergy lacking in zeal, with the cooling off of love; an interior destruction of the Church that also implied a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.

However, at the center of this Church in ruins is the Crucified and he speaks: he calls to renewal, he calls Francis to manual labor to repair concretely the little church of San Damiano, symbol of the more profound call to renew the Church of Christ itself, with his radical faith and his enthusiastic love for Christ.

This event, which probably occurred in 1205, makes one think of another similar event that happened in 1207: the dream of Pope Innocent III. He saw in a dream that the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all churches, was collapsing and a small and insignificant religious supported the church with his shoulders so that it would not collapse. It is interesting to note, on one hand, that it is not the Pope who helps so that the church will not collapse, but a small and insignificant religious, whom the Pope recognizes in Francis who visited him. Innocent III was a powerful Pope, of great theological learning, as well as of great political power, yet it was not for him to renew the Church, but for the small and insignificant religious: It is St. Francis, called by God.

On the other hand, however, it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or against the Pope, but only in communion with him. The two realities go together: the Successor of Peter, the bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit created at this moment to renew the Church. True renewal grows together.

Let us return to St. Francis’ life. Because his father Bernardone reproved him for excessive generosity to the poor, Francis, with a symbolic gesture, and before the bishop of Assisi, stripped himself of his clothes, thus intending to renounce his paternal inheritance: As at the moment of creation, Francis had nothing, but only the life that God gave him, and into whose hands he entrusted himself. Then he lived as a hermit until, in 1208, another fundamental event took place in the journey of his conversion. Hearing a passage of the Gospel of Matthew — Jesus’ discourse to the Apostles sent on mission — Francis feels he is called to live in poverty and to dedicate himself to preaching. Other companions associated themselves to him and, in 1209, he went to Rome, to submit to the Pope the project of a new form of Christian life. He was given a paternal reception by the great Pontiff who, enlightened by the Lord, intuited the divine origin of the movement awakened by Francis. The Poverello of Assisi had understood that every charism given by the Holy Spirit is placed at the service of the Body of Christ, which is the Church; hence, he always acted in full communion with the ecclesiastical authority. In the life of saints there is no opposition between a prophetic charism and the charism of government and, if some tension is created, they must wait patiently for the times of the Holy Spirit.

In reality, some historians in the 19th century and also in the last century tried to create behind the Francis of tradition, a so-called historical Francis, just as there is a desire to create behind the Jesus of the Gospels, a so-called historical Jesus. Such a historical Francis would not have been a man of the Church, but a man linked immediately only to Christ, a man who wished to create a renewal of the people of God, without canonical forms and without the hierarchy. The truth is that St. Francis really had a very immediate relationship with Jesus and with the Word of God, which he wished to follow sine glossa, exactly as it is, in all its radicalism and truth. It is also true that initially he did not have the intention of creating an order with the necessary canonical forms, but, simply, with the Word of God and the presence of the Lord, he wished to renew the people of God, to call them again to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ. Moreover, he knew that Christ never is “mine” but always is “ours,” that “I” cannot have Christ and “I” cannot reconstruct against the Church, his will and his teaching — but only in communion with the Church, built on the succession of the Apostles, is obedience to the Word of God also renewed.

It is also true that he did not intend to create a new order, but only to renew the people of God for the Lord who comes. But he understood with suffering and pain that everything must have its order, that even the law of the Church is necessary to give shape to renewal and thus he really inserted himself totally, with the heart, in the communion of the Church, with the Pope and the bishops. He knew always that the center of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are made present. Through the priesthood, the Eucharist is the Church. Where priesthood, and Christ and communion of the Church go together, only there does the Word of God also dwell. The true historical Francis and the Francis of the Church speaks precisely in this way also to non-believers, to believers of other confessions and religions.

Francis and his friars, ever more numerous, established themselves in the Porziuncola, or church of Saint Mary of the Angels, sacred place par excellence of Franciscan spirituality. Also Clare, a young lady of Assisi of a noble family, placed herself in Francis’ school. Thus the Second Franciscan Order originated, that of the Poor Clares, another experience destined to bear outstanding fruits of sanctity in the Church.

The successor of Innocent III, Pope Honorius III, with his bull “Cum dilecti” of 1218, also upheld the singular development of the first Friars Minor, who were opening their missions in several countries of Europe, and even in Morocco. In 1219 Francis obtained permission to go to speak with the Muslim Sultan Melek-el-Kamel in Egypt, and also to preach the Gospel of Jesus there. I want to underline this episode of the life of St. Francis, which is very timely. At a time in which there was under way a clash between Christianity and Islam, Francis, armed deliberately only with his faith and his personal meekness, pursued with efficacy the way of dialogue. The chronicles tell us of a benevolent and cordial reception by the Muslim Sultan. It is a model that also today should inspire relations between Christians and Muslims: to promote a dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and in mutual understanding (cf. “Nostra Aetate,” 3).

It seems, then, that in 1220 Francis visited the Holy Land, thus sowing a seed that was to bear much fruit: his spiritual sons, in fact, made of the places in which Jesus lived a privileged realm of their mission. With gratitude I think today of the great merits of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Returning to Italy, Francis entrusted the government of the order to his vicar, Friar Pietro Cattani, while the Pope entrusted the order, which continued gathering more followers, to the protection of Cardinal Ugolino, the future Supreme Pontiff Gregory IX. For his part the founder, totally dedicated to preaching, which he carried out with great success, wrote a Rule, later approved by the Pope.

In 1224, in the hermitage of La Verna, Francis saw the Crucified in the form of a seraphim and from the encounter with the crucified seraphim, he received the stigmata; he thus became one with the crucified Christ: a gift, hence, which expresses his profound identification with the Lord.

Francis’ death — his transitus — occurred on the evening of Oct. 3, 1226, at the Porziuncola. After blessing his spiritual sons, he died, lying on the naked earth. Two years later Pope Gregory IX inscribed him in the register of saints. A short time later, a large basilica was raised in Assisi in his honor, still today a destination for very many pilgrims, who can venerate the tomb of the saint and enjoy Giotto’s frescoes, a painter who illustrated in a magnificent way the life of Francis.

It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, he was truly a living icon of Christ. He was even called “Jesus’ brother.” Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus; to contemplate the Christ of the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues. In particular, he wished to give a fundamental value to interior and exterior poverty, teaching it also to his spiritual sons. The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount — blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3) — found a luminous fulfillment in the life and in the words of St. Francis.

Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible; they, incarnating in their lives the Word of God, render it more than attractive, so that it really speaks to us. Francis’ witness, who loved poverty to follow Christ with dedication and total liberty, continues to be also for us an invitation to cultivate interior poverty to grow in trust of God, uniting also a sober lifestyle and detachment from material goods.

In Francis, love for Christ is expressed in a special way in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. In Franciscan sources one reads moving expressions, such as this: “The whole of humanity fears, the whole universe trembles and heaven exults, when on the altar, in the hand of the priest, there is Christ, the Son of the living God. O wonderful favor! O sublime humility, that the Lord of the universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself as to hide himself for our salvation, under the low form of bread” (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padua, 2002, 401).

In this Year for Priests, it pleases me also to recall a recommendation addressed by Francis to priests: “When you wish to celebrate Mass, certainly in a pure way, carry out with reverence the true sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, 399).

Francis always showed great deference to priests, and recommended that they always be respected, even in the case when, at the personal level, they are not very worthy. He cherished, as motivation for this profound respect, the fact that they have received the gift of consecrating the Eucharist. Dear brothers in the priesthood, let us never forget this teaching: the holiness of the Eucharist asks us to be pure, to live in a consistent way with the mystery we celebrate.

From the love of Christ is born love of people and also of all God’s creatures. Here is another characteristic trait of Francis’ spirituality: the sense of universal fraternity and love for Creation, which inspired his famous Canticle of Creatures. It is a very timely message. As I reminded in my recent encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” the only sustainable development is one that respects Creation and does not damage the environment (cf. No. 48-52), and in the Message for the World Day of Peace of this year I underlined that also the building of a solid peace is linked to respect for creation. Francis reminds us that in creation is displayed the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator. In fact, nature is understood by him as a language in which God speaks with us, in which reality becomes transparent and we can speak of God and with God.

Dear friends, Francis was a great saint and a joyful man. His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love of Christ, his kindness to every man and woman made him happy in every situation. In fact, between sanctity and joy there subsists a profound and indissoluble relation. A French writer said that there is only one sadness in the world: that of not being saints, that is, of not being close to God. Looking at St. Francis’ witness, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness: to become saints, close to God!

May the Virgin, tenderly loved by Francis, obtain this gift for us. We entrust ourselves to her with the same words of the Poverello of Assisi: “Holy Virgin Mary, there is no one like you born in the world among women, daughter and handmaid of the Most High King and heavenly Father, Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, spouse of the Holy Spirit: pray for us … to your most holy favorite Son, Lord and Master” (Francis of Assisi, Writings, 163).


Society is Losing Religion


Defends Marriage in Address to German Envoy
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2010 (

Religion is losing favor in society, which is a threat to the basic foundations of marriage and respect for the person from conception to natural death, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today upon receiving the letters of credence of Walter Jürgen Schmid, the new German ambassador to the Holy See.

In his address, the Pope lamented that “there is no strong attachment to religion” in society in general, and that faith in the “personal God” of Christianity is being left to the side in favor of a notion of a “god” who is “a supreme, mysterious and indeterminate being, who has only a vague relationship” with mankind.

“If one abandons faith in a personal God, the alternative arises of a ‘god’ who does not know, does not listen and does not speak,” the Pontiff warned. “And, more than ever before, does not have a will.

“If God does not have his own will, in the end good and evil are not distinguished, good and evil are no longer in contradiction to one another, but are in an opposition in which one is complementary of the other.

“Thus man loses his moral and spiritual strength, necessary for the complete development of the person. Social action is dominated increasingly by private interest or by the calculation of power, at the expense of society.

“Instead, if God is a Person — and the order of creation as well as the presence of Christians of conviction in society is a sign of this — it follows that an order of values is legitimized.”

Benedict XVI also reflected on the concept of marriage, stating that it is “manifested as a lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is also directed to the transmission of human life.”

He said the Church “cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply a reappraisal of alternative models of the life of a couple and of the family,” which would “contribute to the weakening of the principles of the Natural Law and thus to relativizing the whole of legislation and also to confusion on the values in society.”

The Pope also spoke of the need to be “diligent” with regard to the advances in biotechnology and medicine, asserting that the “human person be protected precisely in a situation of weakness,” and that the person “always has priority in regard to other objectives.”

“We have the duty to study diligently to what point these methods can be of help to man and where, instead, it is a question of the manipulation of man, of violation of his integrity and dignity,” the Pontiff noted. “We cannot reject this progress, but we must be very diligent.”

“Once one begins to distinguish — and this now happens often in the maternal womb — between a worthy life and a life unworthy of living, no other phase of life will be safe, and even less so old age and infirmity,” the Holy Father added.

At the end of his address, Benedict XVI encouraged the government of Germany to offer a “pondered and pacifying” contribution to the current media culture.

“The construction of a human society requires fidelity to truth,” he affirmed, lamenting that at times the news cycle is driven by competition instead of facts.

“The subject becomes particularly problematic,” he noted, “when authoritative persons take a public position in this respect, without being able to confirm the aspects adequately.”

Benedict XVI Pope Warns Economy and Ethics Too Easily Divorce


Urges Korea to Foster Common Good Along With Prosperity. [And a lesson for all nations]
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2010 ( Economic growth can all too easily bypass ethical considerations, Benedict XVI is cautioning.

The Pope noted this today in an English-language address to Korea’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Han Hong-soon.

While congratulating Koreans for their “remarkable degree of industry and generosity” that has led to economic growth for the nation, the Holy Father also pointed to an observation made by Korean President Lee Myung-bak when he visited the Vatican last year. The president spoke of the “dangers involved in rapid economic growth which can all too easily bypass ethical considerations, with the result that the poorer elements in society tend to be excluded from their rightful share of the nation’s prosperity.”

The financial crisis has only worsened this problem, the Pontiff stated, though it has also “focused attention on the need to renew the ethical foundations of all economic and political activity.”

In this regard, Benedict XVI encouraged the Korean government in a commitment “to ensure that social justice and care for the common good grow side by side with material prosperity,” and he assured the cooperation of the Church in promoting “these worthy goals.”

Church’s work
The Holy Father went on to reflect about the Church’s efforts in Korea, noting its schools and educational programs, its endeavors in interreligious dialogue, and its charity programs.

“In all these ways, the local Church helps to nurture and promote the values of solidarity and fraternity that are essential for the common good of any human community, and I acknowledge with gratitude the appreciation shown by the government for the Church’s involvement in all these areas,” he said.

But, the Pope continued, the Church has a role that goes beyond these activities: “a role that involves proclaiming the truths of the Gospel, which continually challenge us to look beyond the narrow pragmatism and partisan interests that can so often condition political choices, and to recognize the obligations incumbent upon us in view of the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.”

This calls for a commitment to defending life from conception till natural death, promoting stable family life, and building peace and justice, he said.

The Pope affirmed: “The importance that your government attaches to our diplomatic relations demonstrates its recognition of the Church’s prophetic role in these areas.”


December 20, 2010 Pope is unsparing in analysis of sex-abuse scandal
Pope tells Pontifical Council February 08, 2010

In a powerful address to the Roman Curia, looking back across the year 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that the explosion of the sex-abuse scandal across Europe had gravely damaged and humbled the Church. He encouraged all prelates to ponder why and how it had happened, and what lessons could be learned.

Each year the Roman Pontiff meets with officials of the Roman Curia in mid-December for an exchange of Christmas greetings. The Pope’s address to the Curia has come to be regarded as one of the major papal policy statements of the year.

[The full text of the papal address is available in our library.]

Pope Benedict devoted most of his speech to the sex-abuse scandal. Reflecting on the damage, he said:

We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.
The Pope argued, however, that the misdeeds of priests, while reprehensible, should be seen in “the context of these times in which these events have come to light.” He said that the prevailing attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s broke down the moral consensus against sexual exploitation. Citing the rise in child pornography, sexual tourism, and drug trafficking, he said that moral standards had broken down. The problem was regrettably allowed into the Church, Pope Benedict continued:

It was maintained-– even within the realm of Catholic theology-– that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than.’ Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. … Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist.
The Holy Father began his address by citing the words of the Advent liturgy, imploring God to stir up his power and come to save his people. Those prayers, he remarked, were probably composed during a time of turmoil, as the Roman Empire was collapsing. The Christians of that era, he said, witnessed the “disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them.” They were shaken by a series of major natural disasters. In short their times were much like our own.

So, the Pope said, Christians today should renew those prayers as Christmas approaches, asking for God to bring new light and life to his Church. “Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains–- that is, to order justly the affairs of the world,” the Pope said.

Looking back across 2010, Pope Benedict recalled how the Year for Priests had helped clerics to gain a new appreciation for the beauty of their vocation. It was especially painful, he observed, when ugly revelations came at the close of that year. He recalled that “to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.”

The Pope was unsparing in his condemnation of the abuse. He quoted at length from a mystical vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen, who said:

For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests.
The Pope mentioned, too, that this time of reckoning is a good moment to offer thanks to all of the people who have offered their help to victims of abuse, and sought to obtain justice and support for them.

Pope Benedict’s address to the Roman Curia touched on a few other topics as well. He spoke about the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, and the steady gains in relations with the Orthodox world. “Even if full communion is not yet granted to us,” the Pope commented, “we have nevertheless established with joy that the basic form of the ancient Church unites us profoundly with one another.”

The situation in the Middle East is troublesome in other respects, the Pope said, especially because of the violence against Christians there and elsewhere in the world. Christians, he said, “are the most oppressed and tormented minority.” He called upon world leaders to “put a stop to ‘Christianophobia.’”

The Pope also mentioned his trip to Great Britain, and repeated the message that he had proclaimed there: that a great society based on a Christian culture cannot thrive apart from its Christian roots. He mentioned with pleasure the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, and said that Cardinal Newman offers a valuable witness to contemporary society, because he understood that the most important aspects of life are those that concern the soul, and that the search for truth is inevitably linked with the search for God.