Pope Meets Ayatollah Sistani, Holds the Christianity

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis went to Iraq today and met with Iraq’s principal Shi’ite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and, according to the Associated Press, “delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence Saturday, urging Muslims in the war-weary Arab nation to embrace Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority during an historic meeting in the holy city of Najaf.” That’s great, but the pope also conspicuously omitted mention of Jesus, not uttering the name even once, and thereby revealing what is wrong with all these “Muslim-Christian Dialogue” initiatives: They’re long on Islam, and short on Christianity.


After meeting Sistani, the pope went on to the ancient city of Ur, which is traditionally considered to be the birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham. With this backdrop, Francis said what everyone expected him to say: “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters. Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”

According to Church Militant, “In his lengthy address, Francis did not mention ‘Jesus’ even once, and the prayer concluding the event did not use the standard trinitarian formula or end in ‘the name of Jesus.’” As I explained to that publication, Jesus was not mentioned, for as always, interreligious dialogue involving Muslims and Christians requires Christians move closer to the Islamic position, not any genuine give-and-take or mutuality.

This omission was clearly intended to appease the Pope’s Muslim hosts. Another indication of the real situation behind this outwardly happy gathering was the fact that, according to AP, there were no Jewish leaders present at the “Abrahamic” gathering: “The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain.”


AP doesn’t further elucidate why the Jewish community in Iraq was decimated, or note that the Jewish community in Iraq was not just “decimated,” but forcibly expelled. It doesn’t come close to explaining why the existence of the State of Israel was considered grounds for that expulsion: In Islamic theology, a subjugated non-Muslim people that wants its own state has become kuffar harbi, infidels at war with Islam, and thus to be expelled or killed. Iraq’s Jews need not have expressed any desire to emigrate to Israel for this to be so.

Neither AP nor Pope Francis likely knows that the Qur’an is deeply antisemitic and calls Jews the worst enemies of Muslims (5:82), under the curse of Allah (9:30), and calls on Muslims to make war against and subjugate them (9:29). In light of all this and more, it is possible, as I told Church Militant, that the Jewish leaders did not believe they would be safe or respected there, which would have been a more realistic view of Islam than the one Francis has.

Church Militant noted that “Francis’ address and the concluding ‘Prayer of the Children of Abraham’ also intentionally stopped short of calling ‘Isaac’ the ‘son of Abraham.’” There was no mention of Isaac, because in Islamic tradition, Ishmael is the sacrificial son, and so the Pope was apparently all too willing to go along with the devaluation of the tradition shared by Jews and Christians in favor of the Islamic understanding.

The pope’s appeasement and accommodation didn’t end there, either. According to Church Militant, he “avoided naming the Hebrew prophet ‘Isaiah’ in his speech while citing the prophecy of nations beating ‘their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.’”


The readings were from Genesis and from the Qur’an’s Sura Ibrahim, that is, sura 14. It would have been more illuminating and instructive if Qur’an 60:4 had been read. At that point, Abraham tells his unbelieving family that there will be enmity and hatred between him and them forever unless they worship Allah, and he is presented as a model for imitation in doing this.

Oblivious to this, the pope stated: “Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: We look up to Heaven and we journey on earth.” He added: “We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings.”

This is yet another indication of how the pope clings to and repeats the popular fiction that Islamic jihad terrorism arises from a misunderstanding of Islam. Indeed, he can’t even go that far; instead, he says that “terrorism abuses religion,” as if there were Christian terrorists in numbers comparable to Islamic terrorists worldwide. His ignoring of the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence against unbelievers doesn’t have the remotest chance of compelling jihadis to give up that violence. All it does is foster complacency and ignorance in Christians.

Nonetheless, AP noted that the embattled Christians of Iraq were hopeful: “For Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority, a show of solidarity from al-Sistani could help secure their place in Iraq after years of displacement — and, they hope, ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.”


Muslim-Christian dialogue has so far not prevented even one Christian from being persecuted. Maybe this time it will be different, eh?

 Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.


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