(Shoebat Sunday Special) Many years ago I read my first Chick tract online. For those who have never heard of Jack Chick, he is an anti-Catholic fundamentalist Christian who has created a series of well-drawn comics about “true Christianity.” A cornerstone of his tracts is his outright spiteful and even irrational anti-Catholic ideas, so much that the man literally re-invents historical events as he pleases, shaping them to his own liking and then presenting it to his readers as fact when it is in reality a kind of twisted nightmare from the recesses of his mind.
I have several “favorite” Chick tracts, and one of them is his tract on Islam, in which he purports that Islam was a conspiracy created by the Catholic Church using Muhammad’s wife Khadijah’s cousin Waraqa bin Nawfal as “Vatican Agents.” You have to read the tract in order to believe it, or you can read Jack Chick’s graphic novel The Prophet which expounds even deeper on this same strange idea.
I am still surprised that it could even exist in print because the story is so outlandish and ridiculous since it is a blatant lie. Indeed, anybody with a fraction of an education, who can simply pick up a high school history textbook can tell you clearly otherwise. Even the Muslims will tell you the same.
Or is it? I have heard some people say today that given Pope Francis’ conciliatory tone towards Islam and the Muslim world that the Vatican somehow “accepts” Islam as something good. This is aggravated by the fact that many priests, bishops, and even cardinals have not only refused to criticize Islam and Muslims when they commit violence, but they have even spoken positively about Islam. These same critics then say that the recent Pope John Paul II only proved this when he kissed a copy of the Quran many years ago. There have always been anti-Catholics, but this pope’s actions has brought them out of the proverbial woodwork again, and in this case for a good reason- because while their particular interpretations of Christianity are either off target or outright wrong, Islam is not good, and the Pope as well as his fellow subordinates have no place in praising it.
Now all of these points as facts unto themselves about recent Vatican history and Islam are undeniable. However, this brings us to an important question: What did Popes say and do about Islam and Muslims?
There have been 196 Popes from Muhammad’s death until now (Honorius to Francis). Now it would take a very long time to go over the life, histories, and experiences each pope has had with Islam. However, make no mistake about it, not only is the Catholic Church the greatest enemy of Islam throughout history, but the Popes of the Catholic Church are the greatest leaders in bringing Christians of all denominations together to fight against the Muslim antichrists of each age and, when followed, to bring Christians to victory over the Muslims. That is also to say that what you see happening today with Pope Francis is not only an anomaly, but in direct contradiction- even against the very teachings- of the popes over the past 1400 years.
A brief survey of these 196 men reveal that 52- just a little over 25%- have been directly involved in fighting against Islam and Muslims in some form or another. I went through and compiled the following list of information about each pope, giving their title, their years of reign, and what they specifically did with Islam and Muslims, as well as any historical context that may have been present. What I found even surprised me, and Islamic studies is my specialty, since there were not only so many popes involved in this struggle, but the degree to which they were and continued to be involved for many centuries.
I emphasize that my research into this topic is merely a survey. I hardly had time to look into the “meat” of the matter for each man because there was so much that it could literally be one (or several) books. Everything here can be found in a simple Internet search.
Simple? Yes. But that is the point. People always speak about “defending” the Faith against attacks from people who make slanderous libelous statements against the Catholic Faith. The fact is that, as is listed below, the truth speaks for itself. The popes are the greatest fighters against Islam in the history of Christendom, and here is why:
Pope Donus (676-678) is the first pope that we know about who did something that I can find on record. When the Islamic conquests were taking place, many Christians fled their ancestral homelands in the Middle East to Europe and Sicily. Many of these people were monks because Islam has a particular dislike of them. He gave Nestorian monks- people who belong to a sect condemned as heretical by the Church- fleeing Muslim conquests of Syria refuge in Rome.
St. Gregory III, the Syrian who directed the defeat of the Muslims in Spain behind the scenes
During the Islamic conquests of the Eighth century, the popes were intimately involved in both the spiritual and military struggle with Ishmael’s armies. St. Gregory II (715-731) prayed and called for Christians to take up spiritual arms against the Muslims, and is attributed to slowing the Muslim advance by his prayers and those who answered him. St. Gregory III (731-741) continued the mission of his predecessor, but also took up the military struggle against Islam when he petitioned and convinced the great Frankish general Charles Martel to fight the Muslims at Tours, France, in 732 in the “battle that saved western civilization” from Islamization and drove the Muslims back over the Pyrenees into Spain and kept them there for centuries. His successor, St. Zachary (741-752), noticed the increase in the slave trade with the arrival of Islam, and he realized that even Christians, especially those in Venice, were involved in selling other Christians to Muslims. Horrified at this act, he immediately banned Venetian and all Christian merchants from selling slaves to the Muslims and not only that, but he ransomed the slaves they were going to sell. His successor, Stephen II (752-757), recognized the continual threat posed by Islamic armies, and as such he petitioned the Franks for further action against Islam. Not only that, but he also worked with the Byzantines to coordinate a Franco-Byzantine alliance against Islam. This would be one of many precursory events to the Crusades.
As is well documented, wherever Islam goes slavery follows, and specifically the horrible institution of sex slavery, as that was the primary reason for it. It was Pope Adrian I (772-795) who not only maintained St. Zachary’s anti-slavery position, calling the Muslims the “unspeakable race of Saracens”, but he aggressively petitioned the Franks to continue in their fight against Islam and not relent in the least because of the absolute danger which is continued to pose.
St. Leo IV
Tensions remained between the Muslim and Catholic world for the next half century until it exploded in 846. The pope of that time, Sergius II (844-847) was severely criticized not because he was against Islam, but because he did not take any precautionary measures to prepare militarily for the Muslim attacks in 846. After his death, Pope St. Leo IV (847-855) not only performed spiritual war against the Muslims, but he aggressively prepared militarily and when the Muslims invaded again, he himself went into battle against the Muslims in person at the Battle of Ostia and help lead that Catholics to victory.
St. Nicholas I
With the Muslims defeated in Italy and driven away for now, the Pope then began rebuilding Italy and preparing it for the next attack. This included military preparations as well as rebuilding the churches destroyed by the Muslims, as they were a common target of assault due to the hatred which Islam so intensely possesses for the Faith. His work was continued by Pope Benedict III (855-858) who directed repairs to churches damaged by the Muslims in the city of Rome, Popes St. Nicholas I (858-867) and Adrian II (867-872), who likewise followed in St. Leo IV’s example and fought against the Muslims in southern Italy with Emperor Louis II.
Pope Marinus I, who banned any social or economic intercourse between Christians and Muslims
Unfortunately, while the popes were working very hard against Islam’s advances, there were many fellow Christians who literally did NOTHING. In fact, they were even forming alliances with the Muslims an fighting against fellow Christians. The Popes were the first ones to combat this, beginning with John VIII (872-882), who banned Christians from allying with Muslims and even proved his example by fighting against those people. His successor in Pope Marinus I (882-884) reinforced John VII’s ban on alliances and even extended it to merely conducting any business with Muslims.
St. Adrian III, who established alliances in the East and West to fight the Muslims
All of this work was very important, because by separating the Muslim alliances with unbelieving and even apostate Catholics, the popes purified the Church and prepared the way for a century of continual war against the sons of Ishmael. Pope St. Adrian III (884-885) summoned alliances with Frankish ruler Charles the Fat to fight the Muslims in Spain. Since his papacy was short lived, his successor Stephen V (885-891) worked with the Byzantines to coordinate naval assaults against Muslim targets and especially Muslim pirates, which resulted in a countless number of Christian slaves being freed from a sure life of horror. Pope John X (914-928) himself went into battle against the Muslims at the Battle of Garigliano and lead the Church to victory. His successor Leo VI (928-929) continued to fight against the Muslim raiders, and even taught that Christians who die fighting Muslims will go to Heaven. In addition, later successors, such as Benedict VII (974-983) pushed for missions to Muslims in Tunisia and North Africa.
Bl. Urban II, who initiated the first crusade
The eleventh century was the turning point for the Popes. They had recognized and had been fighting militarily against the Muslim for four centuries at this point, but they realized the problem was much deeper. If the Islamic threat was to be effectively destroyed, then the Islamic heresy had to be uprooted in its native Arabian land and specifically, the Holy Land. Pope Sergius IV (1009-1012) issued first bull calling for the expulsion of Muslims from the Holy Land following the horrific persecutions of Caliph Al-Hakam in Egypt against the Christians. Pope Alexander II (1061-1073) called for a crusade against Spanish Muslims, and his successor St. Gregory VII (1073-1085) planned for the first crusade. However, this call would not be realized until the reign of Bl. Urban II (1088-1099), who issued the formal call at Clermont in November 1095.
Bl. Eugene III, who called for the second crusade
As Europe entered the next two hundred years of crusades to the Holy Land, all popes played some role by the fact of the existence of the movement. However, some popes stood out more than others during this period. It was Paschal II (1099-1118) and Honorius II (1124-1130) who gave their approval to the Knights Templar Catholic military order. Bl. Eugene III (1145-1153) called for the second crusade, Clement III (1187-1191) called for the third crusade, Celestine III (1191-1198) confirmed the Teutonic knights as a crusader order, Innocent III (1189-1216) pushed for both crusades against Muslims in Spain as well as supported initially the fourth crusade, and Honorius III (1216-1227) instituted the fifth crusade.
Bl. Gregory X, who tried to form a Catholic-Mongol alliance
In addition to forging crusades, the Popes also worked aggressively to form alliances to fight the Muslims with non-European powers. Five successive popes, Innocent IV (1243-1254), Alexander IV (1254-1261), Clement IV (1264-1268), Bl. Gregory X (1271-1276), and John XXI (1276-1277) tried to forge an alliance with the Mongolian hordes in order to create a unified front through which to confront the Muslims. Unfortunately, this crusade never materialized. Nevertheless, there were some good fruits of this, as this also marked the first instance of massive Catholic missions to the east. These men sent the first missionaries, but in the years after the destruction of the crusader states in 1291, the Pope pressed even more aggressively for missionary work in the east. Two of such popes were Nicholas IV (1288-1292) and Clement V (1305-1314). They worked extensively with Bl. John of Montecorvino, a missionary to converted over ten thousand Muslims and pagans to the Catholic Faith throughout China, Central Asia, Pakistan, and Iran.
Callixtus III, who instituted the ringing of Church bells at noon so that Christians remember to pray for the Crusaders to Belgrade and in perpetual memory of their victory in 1456
As the Church moved into the 15th century, the situation became more desperate in Europe with the rise of a new and dangerous power- the Ottoman Empire. The “Turkish menace” as it was called threatened to overtake all of Europe and posed a true existential threat to Christendom. Realizing this danger, the Popes stepped into action. Boniface IX (1389-1404) tried for a crusade to help Byzantine Empire, but the corruption of the Emperors of that time proved to be its greatest obstruction. Martin V (1417-1431) organized a crusade to North Africa and successfully freed Christian slaves captured by Muslim pirates. His successor Eugene IV (1431-1447) organized a crusade to Bulgaria and to Syria to help Christians there against the Muslims. Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) issued a bull saying that Christians are to attack Muslims and Islamic territories wherever they may be found. Callixtus III (1455-1458) pushed for a crusade to Serbia, which prevented the Islamization of Belgrade in 1456 and it was he who instituted the ringing of church bells at noon, so that Christians everywhere would remember to pray for the crusaders as well as to remember this victory. His successor Pius II (1458-1464) attempted to convert Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (“The Conqueror”), but when that failed, he continued the wars against the Turks, this time supporting the Albanian Muslim turned Catholic convert Iskander Beg, known as Skanderbeg. His successor Sixtus IV (1471-1484) executed a brief crusade to Smyrna against the Turks, and following him Innocent VIII (1484-1492) tried to organize a greater action but to no avail.
St. Pius V, who defeated the Muslims at Lepanto
Following this period, the Pope’s actions directed specifically against Islam decreased because of another threat: Protestantism. The Protestant movement, which was funded in part by the Ottomans, was particularly devastating because it smashed the union of Christendom, which was already weakened, and thus set Catholics versus apostate Catholics against each other and prevented the Church from dealing effectively with the Ottomans. Nevertheless, the Turkish threat remained real, and in spite of the difficulties, the Popes still had to and did successfully confront it. Pope Adrian VI (1522-1523) continued to call for war against the Turks. When the Ottoman navy, the most powerful in the world at its time, threatened to overrun Christendom, it was St. Pius V (1566-1572) who called for a Catholic League to confront the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571, where they won a resounding victory that permanently disabled the Ottoman Empires absolute dominance of the Mediterranean.
Bl. Innocent XI, who defeated the Muslims at Vienna
While the fighting continued, it would be nearly a century later that the Turkish menace would again pose an existential thread to Christendom with the invasion of Eastern Europe pushing into Central Europe. Pope Clement IX (1667-1669) worked against the Turkish naval powers, while his successor Clement X (1670-1676) helped fund Poland’s war against the Ottoman raids into Polish and Austrian territory. Yet it would not be until Bl. Innocent XI (1676-1689), who finally , having seen the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, convince yet again a coalition of Polish, German, and Italian Catholics to confront and defeat the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna in which not only did they emerge victorious, but the Ottoman Empire and Muslim world went into a period of decline for several centures.
Bl. Pius IX
From the 18th century onward, there is little in the way of Catholic military action against the Muslims, since most of the work was spent in missions to Muslim lands. Innocent XIII (1721-1724) was possibly one of the last pope to militarily assist Catholics against the Turks, in this case on this island of Malta assisted Malta against Turkish attacks. But by the 19th century and with the conflicts in Europe, the Popes were mostly reduced to diplomatic work with Muslims, such as Bl. Pius IX’s (1846-1878) and Benedict V’s (1914-1922) attempt to assist the Christians in fleeing the Ottoman Empire in light of the impending genocide the Turks were planning that culminated in the murders of 1917.
This is just a highly annotated history of what happened.
Now, dear readers, you may be aware that I have certain disagreements with Pope Francis’ personal opinions for various reasons, his statements on Islam being among them because, as I hopefully have demonstrated, they are (a) incorrect so far as Catholic teaching is concerned, and (b) set a poor example for fellow Catholics and non-Catholics who see his actions.
So when you see Pope Francis speak highly of Islam and praise Muslim refugees and even worse, engage in nonsense, know this:
The Faith (as always) remains intact.
This man’s personal views are wrong.
An elementary history of the Church shows this. His own predecessors would likely condemn him for heresy on account of his sayings and actions about Islam. Anybody with eyes to read and ears to hear, and who reads works other than by people who cannot cite historical documents (such as Jack Chick) will know the truth, that the Popes were always the greatest warriors against Islam, and it will be a future Pope who will lead the Church into spiritual and physical combat with the Muslims to drive them back to the same lands they came from.
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