By Theodore Shoebat
An official archbishop of the Catholic Church in Iraq, Bashar Warda, went before British parliament and declared that troops must be sent to Iraq to save the Christian population. In his plea he said:
These people have no other way to be dealt with but with military action. …Politicians, I beg you … we really do need military action. …This is worse than what happened in Afghanistan. …Because we are seeing more and more young people coming to fight with Daesh so we all have responsibility about this.
This is a call to war being done by a religious cleric, and it is not so different from what the Church used to do in the days of Christendom, in which the Popes would call for Crusades, and in the process, would exhort kings and governments to provide the military force that was needed to succeed in the Holy War.
Now, is Britain going to listen to the archbishops pleas? I am not sure, but what I am sure of is that if we were living in the glorious Middle Ages, there would have been a Crusade done to destroy ISIS and protect and defend the Christians already. The Pope would have issued an exhortation to Crusade, and it would have been done promptly, just as it was in Medieval times.
When Rome was invaded by the Muslims in the year 846, Pope Sergius II immediately called a holy war, and quite quickly, king Lothaire I and his son, Louis II, both took the Cross and combated the Islamic invaders head on.
When the Muslims were heading toward Rome again within the same year, warriors from Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi, assembled together under the dauntless military commander, Caesarius, and headed for Rome where they met with St. Pope Leo IV and expressed their most passionate desire to defend the city for the Faith and for Christ.
St. Pope Leo IV embraced the warriors and stood before them, and instilled in their souls the spiritual strength they would need to strive for victory in the coming Holy War, in which they triumphed gloriously.
When the Muslim Turks took over the Middle East and were horrifically slaughtering and tormenting the native Christians of the land, and desecrating the holy sites, St. Pope Gregory VII called for a holy war, and in very little time, he rallied up to fifty thousand Italian warriors willing to fight and die for Christ. In the year 984, Pope Sylvester II called for a Holy War against the Muslims, and was able to gather a number of warriors from Pisa who would then fight the pagans on the Syrian coast.
When the Arian heretics were using the power of the Arian emperor, Constantius II, to persecute the righteous St. Athanasius, St. Athanasius fled to Rome and took refuge in the jurisdiction of Pope Julius who, in turn, exhorted the noble emperor Constans to use his temporal power to protect him. The emperor Constans then sent a threatening letter to his brother Constantius in which he affirmed that he had to accept Athanasius and the other Orthodox Christians to their rightful positions without persecution, and if he didn’t:
I will myself come thither, and restore them to their own sees, in spite of your opposition. (Quoted in Socrates, 2.22)
And of course, we have all heard of how the First Crusade of 1096 was commenced: Pope Urban II, upon hearing of the horrific persecutions the Christians of the East were undergoing, called for a Crusade, and the warriors of Western Christendom obeyed without questioning.
But we must ask ourselves, how, and why, did the fighting men of Christendom have such great zeal, to the point that they would unsheathe their swords against the pagans, as soon as the Church called for a Holy War?
There are two answers, I believe, to this question: (1) The acceptance by the people of the authority of the Church as still holding the two swords of St. Peter, and (2) the denial of the self for the complete union with Christ, for both the state and the people, to thus become an instrument for the justice of Christ.
Let me explain the first, and then we will go onto the second. Much of the material in the following discourse will be in my upcoming book which will be the most extensive study ever done on the subject of Christian Holy War, and it will be coming out within the year.
THE TWO SWORDS OF ST. PETER
When St. Peter was on earth, Christ told him after the Last Supper: “strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32) This was an order that commissioned the head of the Church to be the one who empowers the Christians in their war against the devil, and such a great and cosmic struggle consists of Holy War in which Christendom wars with the goat nations. Such a short passage would move nations, for when the nations of Christendom were at war with the enemies of Christ, there was the Pope to provide the spiritual armor of the knights of God.
To strengthen is to empower and invigorate the brethren, and also, to protect them from harm both spiritual and physical. For when the Muslims were slaughtering the Christians of the East, Pope St. Gregory VII sited this statement of Christ when speaking of his own obligation to help lead an army of fifty thousand warriors against the Turks, to protect and liberate the Church that was so brutally persecuted. In his letter, written in 1074 and addressed to King Henry IV, Gregory wrote:
For it is the call of our time that the word of command shall be fulfilled which our blessed Savior deigned to speak to the prince of the Apostles: ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ And because our fathers, in whose footsteps we, though unworthy, desire to walk, often went to those regions for the strengthening of the Catholic faith, we also, aided by the prayers of all Christian men, are under compulsion to go over there for the same faith and for the defense of Christians — provided that the way shall be opened with Christ as our guide — for the way of man is not in his own hand, and the steps of a man are ordered by the Lord. (Gregory VII, b. 2, 31, p. 165)
This is just one example of the head of the Church following the command Christ gave to St. Peter, and strengthening his brethren in the heat of battle. There is another part of the Church’s authority’s role in Holy War, and that is the Two Swords of St. Peter, of which I have written extensively on before (click here).
Christ gave this order to the Disciples: “he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36) St. Peter then said: “Lord, look, here are two swords.” (Luke 22:38) One of those swords would eventually be used by St. Peter when he struck off the ear of Malchus, and to this did Christ say: ““Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11)
Now, take notice that Christ does not say, “discard your sword,” but, “Put your sword into the sheath.” Also, notice that He says, “your sword,” meaning Peter’s. The sword, therefore, never left the sheath of the Church, and must remain in the sheath until it can be used appropriately. This is further elucidated by the words of Christ when He said: “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” In other words, the violent actions of Peter were done without propriety, for he was not to be a hinderance to the divine plan, that is, Christ’s Crucifixion.
The unsheathing of the sword of St. Peter by the Church must only be used for a just and holy cause, and not a hinderance to a holy cause.
In the cause of a Holy War, in which the use of arms and military force is needed and just, the Two Swords of St. Peter partake in a profound harmony: one sword represents the temporal authority, or the state, and the other is the symbol of the spiritual sword. When Christians are being attacked by pagans why are trying to uproot the Faith, it is the great commission of Christendom to aim for spiritual virtue, and in this case that would mean answering the call of the Spiritual Sword, and utilizing the Temporal Sword to advance Christianity and defend the helpless flock.
St. Thomas More wrote of this obligation of Christian government to defend the persecuted, and criticized those who interpreted the story of Peter using his sword as a commandment to pacifism:
And although Christ forbade Saint Peter, who was a priest and, under Christ himself, prince of Christ’s priests, to fight with temporal sword toward the hinderance and resistance of his fruitful Passion (on which depended the salvation of humankind), which propensity our Savior had before that time so severely reproved and rebuked in him as to call him Satan for it [Mt. 16:23], it is nevertheless completely off-base to claim that in accord with that example, temporal princes should, not with an eye to such spiritual harm, let their people be attacked and oppressed by infidels, to their utter undoing, not only temporal, but also for a great many, perpetual, they being likely for their frailty, for fear of earthly hardship and discomfort, to fall from their faith and renounce their baptism. (Thomas More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, 4.14, trans. Mary Gottschalk)
St. Peter struck off the ear of Malchus with the political sword, and yet it was not discarded but still remained in his sheath. Therefore, the political sword remains in the hands of the Church. But when Christ reprimanded St. Peter for his use of the sword, it was an indication that the Church was not designed to be a central government, or the only political authority ruling over nations and punishing evil doers. Therefore, while the Church is in possession of the political sword, she does not strike her enemies herself, but commands temporal rulers to use it against her persecutors. Thus St. Bernard writes to the Church:
Both [swords] are yours, but both must not be taken out by your hand (Bernard, On Consideration, 4.3)
St. Bernard furthermore declares to the Church:
The material sword has to be taken out by the hand of the soldier at the command of the emperor but subject to the nod of the supreme priest. (Ibid)
Christ commanded St. Peter: “Feed My sheep.” The authorities of the Church, then, are commissioned to care for the spiritual wellbeing of the faithful. All those who are in the Church are the sheep, and when entire nations are under the Church, as in Christendom, then those very authorities not only care and direct laypeople, but governors, magistrates and kings. The ruler, like all of the other sheep, must abide by what St. Paul wrote:
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
If Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered by pagans, the governor cannot just sit there and say: “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” (James 2:16) instead the rulers are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only,” (James 1:22), and therefore they are to be “God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4) The salvation of the ruler depends on whether or not he rules with justice, and he strives “for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (1 Peter 2:14)
The actions of the king should never be separated from his eternal salvation. Many today want to argue that how a ruler governs has no relevance to his salvation, and they say that those of the Body of Christ all are equal, and that there is no distinction given to sovereigns. How then do we argue this? In the holy Scriptures there is a distinct position given to rulers, and whether or not they use their power to glorify God or serve the devil determines their eternal end. In the Book of Wisdom it gives a severe warning to kings who rule corruptly, saying:
Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations: For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts: Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God. Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented. (Wisdom 6:3-7)
The prophet Isaiah gives his woes to tyrants, and forewarns them that God will punish them in the Day of Judgement for their passing of unjust and evil laws:
Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees,
Who write misfortune,
Which they have prescribed
To rob the needy of justice,
And to take what is right from the poor of My people,
That widows may be their prey,
And that they may rob the fatherless.
What will you do in the day of punishment,
And in the desolation which will come from afar? (Isaiah 10:1-3)
St. Maximus of Turin said that the Christian leader who enforces laws for the advancement of Christianity, then he will be rewarded in the afterlife:
Good Christian princes, indeed, go so far as to promulgate laws for the sake of religion, but the administrators do not enforce them competently. Therefore, when a prince has deposed by reason of guilt the administrator remains answerable; if he executes the law precisely he is absolved of sin, because of the well-being of the many, will be endowed with an eternal reward. (Maximus of Turin, sermon 106.2)
Therefore, when the Chuch, whose spiritual authority the the king is under, orders the king to execute a Holy War in order to defend Christendom, he is under obligation — for the sake of his eternal salvation — to comply, and defend the flock.
NATIONAL SELF DENIAL TO CHRIST
When holy wars are done, it is not just the ecclesiastical authorities and the government who are involved, it is the entire nation who partakes in the eternal struggle. How then does a nation become like this? The entire population is in a state of selflessness, in that each person denies himself, carries his cross and follows Christ, fulfilling within themselves those beautiful words of St. Paul:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The whole nation, or nations, of Christendom work in a sublime harmony in Christ, emulating Christ, and becoming an image of Christ, throwing off or eschewing the worldly lusts, casting out the fear of death, striving with all sense of self-sacrifice the words of St. Peter: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
When Christendom fights, the people honor the king because they follow him in his call to Crusade; they love the brotherhood, because they defend the brotherhood; they fear God because they rise above the fears of the self, not fearing “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”, but only “Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
They honor all people, because they do not fight with the objective of dominating people, but to fight for the holy cause that brings salvation to humankind, and to vanquish the wicked one who was a murderer from the beginning.
Christ said: “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) The meek do not react with violent passion when people insult or attack their own person, but they do respond with a ferocious zeal when God and His Holy Faith and Church are attacked. Moses was meek, being “very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), but when he saw God being mocked in the debauchery of the people, he with all zealous rage slammed the two tablet to the ground and slaughtered three thousand of the pagans.
Christ was very meek, but when He saw His Father’s House being prostituted, He took up His whips and, with force, drove the thieves out, and even remained in the Temple to prevent any merchants from entering. As Fulton Sheen once wrote: “Only the principles of God’s righteousness arouse a meek person.” (Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes, ch. 1, p. 16) And so it is only for God — the Blessed Trinity — that Christendom fights, and thus in such a situation is the sword unsheathed to crush persecutors and defend the persecuted.
All of the nations of Christendom are enflamed with holy indignation, willing to fight and sacrifice themselves for their brethren, and this can only happen through the denial of the self and the divine union with Christ, “for in Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28), and in Him do we have the will to combat the devil for the glory of the Cross.
It is not the protection of the self that the Christian fights for, but the defense of others, and in so doing does he pour out the infinite river of mercy, and the boundless stream of love, that flow from the Cross. The Knight of God casts away himself in Christ; he becomes the Cross, and the Cross becomes him; he becomes a “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), emulating Christ his General, fighting the slaves of the devil for the good of the brethren “that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
The Cross is not some symbol, or some abstract image that we are suppose to imagine in our minds; the Cross is a holy icon that we are to embrace with all of our beings. In combat, and in martyrdom, the Cross takes over our entire identities; we become the Cross, and the Cross becomes us. We enter the Cross, and we become like Christ, and through His humanity, we partake in His divinity; through His humanity, we enter eternity.
With this do we say with St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) The entire nation of Christendom, then, makes itself into a single sacrifice to God, taking the forefront in the cosmic war against evil, not caring for the self, but collectively denying the self and exemplifying the greatest love imaginable: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
To die for the Church is to die for Christ. It is to carry the Cross of Christ, that one dies for the people with whom Christ identifies Himself. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) To persecute the Church is to persecute Christ, and so to fight and die for the Church is to fight and die for Christ. But for a whole nation to commit to this, would mean that the whole nation must deny itself for Christ.
The French crusader Thibaut de Champagne, wrote that those who fought against the Muslims in the Crusades would be judged as righteous, for they, like Simon of Cyrene, carried the Cross with Christ, while those who did nothing will be cast into hell:
God let himself suffer on the cross for us,
And he will tell us on that day, when all men gather,
“You, who helped me carry my cross,
Will go where my angels are;
There you will see me and my mother, Mary.
And you from whom I never received,
Will all descend into the depths of hell.”
When Pope Innocent III called for a crusade in the Fourth Lateran Council, he declared that the one who suffers for the cause of our Savior, carries the Cross with Christ, and for this great labor, will reign with Christ after his blessed death:
Indeed Pasch in Hebrew is phase, which is a ‘pass(ing) over,’ and in Greek is paschein, which is ‘to suffer,’ because it is through suffering we must pass over the glory, as Truth himself said, ‘It was necessary for the Christ to suffer so as to enter into his glory.’ [Luke 24:26] For that reason if we wish to co-reign [with him], it is necessary that we also co-suffer [with him], although ‘the sufferings of this time are not wholly worthy of the future glory that will be revealed in us.’ [Romans 8:18] (Pope Innocent III, sermon 6: Fourth General Council of the Lateran)
The fact that Innocent III said this in his declaration of war against Muslims and Cathars, shows that the carrying of the cross can be applied to Holy War and the suffering that one endures in the sacred combat.
So, to return to where we began: the call of the Archbishop is a holy thing, and he is correct to say that military action is what needs to be done, but ultimately it is going to take a restored Christendom to cut asunder the Muslim crescent with the Sword of the Holy Cross.
But before that happens, I ask you to please make a donation to the rescue team, and save the lives of your brethren who are being horrifically persecuted in Pakistan.