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Pope Francis vs. St. Francis of Assisi - the "Blue Mosque" Affair


Pope Francis vs. St. Francis of Assisi
Contrast: Francis at the Blue Mosque, Francis of Assisi before the Sultan

By John Vennari
Pope Francis has “dared to do what none of his predecessors had ever done,”
Le Figero’s Jean-Marie Guénois rejoiced, “to pray openly, side-by-side with a Muslim dignitary”.

The event took place at the Blue Mosque on November 29, the second day of Francis’ visit to Istanbul.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI – the ever-zealous advocate of Conciliar ecumenism – visited the Mosque but supposedly remained in contemplation. This gave rise to speculation as to whether or not the Pontiff actually prayed in the Mosque, and also gave rise to scandal.

Francis, according to Guénois, removed any hint of ambiguity. The Pontiff “bowed his head for long time while deeply closing his eyes from two to three minutes, in order to obviously pray – and to make clear he was praying. And this was in the direction of Mihrab, the niche in the wall framed by two pillars that indicates the qibla, that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that the act was, in fact, a “silent adoration.” According to Lombardi, the Pope had also said to the Muslim Mufti, “we must adore God.”[1]

This action defies Catholic Tradition, spurns the perennial Papal doctrine against religious indifferentism, and mocks true Catholics such as St. Francis of Assisi who visited Muslims for one purpose alone, to convert them to Christ’s one true Church.
Bergoglio: Contra Saint Francis
Present-day Catholics, starting with the majority of Church leaders, appear to be ruled by sentiment rather than objective truth. We’ve seen the alleged comparisons made between St. Francis of Assisi and the Papa Bergoglio: Both are named “Francis,” both are concerned for the poor, both preach a kind of poverty, both “dialogue” with Muslims. Therefore, they are alike: Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi.

The assessment could not be more false. Here we will only contrast Francis of Assisi with Papa Bergoglio concerning Islam.

Saint Francis sought to convert Muslims from the darkness of their false religion to Christ’s one true Church for salvation.

By contrast, Pope Francis visits Muslims to pursue more dialogue, to revel in artificial religious camaraderie, and to indirectly assure Muslims they are on their own legitimate path to “God” and need not convert to Christ’s Church.

Such a program would horrify St. Francis of Assisi, as it would horrify any right-thinking Catholic.
Saint Francis and the Sultan
Around the year 1220 Saint Francis of Assisi sailed to Egypt to join the Christian army that was besieging Damietta. He did not go to fight alongside Crusaders but to preach Christ to the Infidels.

Saint Francis approached the Papal Legate who was with the army and “requested leave to cross over to the Muslim lines to preach to the Muslims.”

This rattled the Papal Legate, who knew the Sultan had offered a golden ducat for the head of any Christian sent to him.
In response, the Papal Legate simply asked Francis not to bring shame on the Christian name.

That was all Francis needed. He and some companions struck out at once for the Sultan’s camp.

They saw two lambs on the road while on their way. Francis took this as a good sign, saying to his comrades, “Behold I send you forth as sheep among wolves.”

Muslim soldiers apprehended Francis, took him before the Sultan and Francis began to preach. He spoke with power and conviction, zeal and fire. The love of God flowed through him. He was like a blast furnace, infectious, captivating.

The Sultan found himself drawn in by the power of Francis’ words, and ordered him to be treated with courtesy while at camp.

It appears that Francis stayed for a few days, and the Sultan asked Francis to remain in his court.

“Willingly,” answered Francis, “if you and your people will convert to Christ.”

Francis continued, “If you hesitate as to the merits of the law of Muhammad and the faith of Christ, command that a great fire be lighted, and I together with your priests, will enter the fire that you may know which is the more worthy and true.”

The Sultan replied that none of their Muftis would accept the challenge.

“Then if you promise for yourself and your people, to come to the worship of Christ if I come out of the fire unhurt,” Francis responded, “I will enter the fire alone.”

He added, “If I am burnt up, impute it to my sins, but if the Divine Power protects me, acknowledge Christ to be true God and the Savior of all.”

The Sultan dared not accept the challenge from the holy mendicant, but was captivated by Francis nonetheless, and asked him to accept some precious gifts if not for himself, then at least for the poor.

Francis responded this was not the purpose of his visit, and returned to Europe.[2]

What do you notice?

1) Saint Francis preached to the Sultan for no other purpose than the conversion of the Muslims;

2) The Sultan refused to convert, so Francis stopped the dialogue.
Saint Francis of Assisi: No Ecumenist

Saint Francis of Assisi was firmly committed to the truth that “outside the Catholic Church, there is no salvation.” He was an apostle of Christ who preached the Gospel,

1) for the salvation of those souls who were already Catholic, but had fallen away from the Gospel ideal;

2) for the salvation of infidels and non-believers, whom he knew would be lost if they did not embrace Christ and His one true Church.

Knight of the Church Militant

His biographer, Fr. Cuthbert, OSFC, wrote in 1916 that Saint Francis was “apt to be impatient with meddlers and heretics to the end”[3]

In fact, Saint Francis pulled no punches concerning those who do not accept Catholic truth. He did not speak in vague terms about the “seeds of truth found in all religions.” Nor did he announce his famous trip to preach to the Moslems as “an invitation to dialogue between the great monotheistic religions in the service of the human family.” [4]

No. He preached the need for conversion of the non-Catholics to the one true Church of Christ for salvation. Nothing less would suffice.

In one of his oldest
Admonitiones (“Admonitions”) to the Brothers in his Order, Saint Francis said the following regarding those who do not accept Catholic truth:

“All, who have seen Jesus in the flesh but have not seen Him according to the Spirit and in His Divinity, and have not believed that He was really the Son of God, are doomed. Also those are doomed who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, which is consecrated with the words of the Lord on the altar and by the hand of the priest in the form of bread and wine, but do not see in it the Spirit and Divinity and have not believed that it really is Our Lord Jesus Christ’s most holy Body and Blood”[5]

Those who try to portray Saint Francis of Assisi as an apostle of Vatican II’s ecumenism do not tell the truth. There is no sharper contrast to the new, effeminate ecumenism than Saint Francis’ encounter with the Sultan, and his Friars’ missionary zeal among the Muslims.

Saint Francis vs. Islam

While Saint Francis encountered the Sultan in Egypt, five firebrand Franciscan Friars were kicking up a lot of dust in Muslim Morocco, so much so that all five of them would be put to death. Their names were Brothers Berardo, Ortho, Pietro, Accurso and Aduto.

First they went to Spain, to Moslem Seville. Because they tried to preach the Gospel there, they were scourged, imprisoned and expelled from that kingdom.

Then they went over to Muslim Morocco in an attempt to convert the infidels. When they arrived, the Friars did more than just preach in the streets. Rather, they marched in and denounced Muhammad from inside the mosque.[6]

The Friars were seized, imprisoned and scourged, but that did not temper their zeal. While in prison, they tried repeatedly to convert the jailers.

The rulers of Morocco attempted to find a diplomatic way out of the imbroglio, so they arranged the Friars to be sent out of the country.

How did the five Franciscans respond? Father Cuthbert relates: “But the five Friars knew nothing of diplomacy and had not the temper to live and let live. Muhammad was, in their eyes, the enemy of Christ, and the souls of this people were rightful spoils for their Divine Redeemer. To go back upon their mission would be a traitorous backsliding from their fealty to their Savior.”[7]

At the first opportunity, the Franciscans gave their jail keepers the slip. The immediately returned to the city, and were again in front of the mosque appealing to the infidels to renounce Muhammad and accept Christ.

They were seized, cast into jail and tortured. While on the rack, the jailers promised the Friars that their lives would be spared and they would be given gifts, if they would deny Christ and accept Muhammad.

The Friars responded by uttering the praises of Our Lord, and urged the torturers to renounce Muhammad and accept Jesus Christ.

The Muhammadans answered by beheading each Friar, and casting their bodies outside the walls to be the food of dogs.

A Portuguese dignitary arranged a stealth operation to have their bodies rescued. They were taken to Portugal, and with great reverence they were laid in the Church of the Canons Regular (Augustinian) in Coimbra.

Among the people who flocked to pray to and honor the martyred Franciscans, there was a young Augustinian Canon who was enraptured by the zeal and love of Christ that burned in these Friars. He sought out the local Franciscans and begged to be admitted to the Order.

That young Augustinian, who became Franciscan, is now known to us as Saint Anthony of Padua, the Miracle Worker, whom Catholics honor with the title, “Hammer of Heretics".

As for Saint Francis: What did he think of these five Friars who marched into a mosque and denounced Muhammad from within the Muslim’s own holy place? Who urged Moslems for their own salvation not to follow the false prophet, Muhammad?

Did Saint Francis organize a grand apology the following March 12 for the insensitivity of his friars for not understanding that the “Moslems, together with us, worship the same God”?

No! Francis cried out in a transport of gratitude to Heaven, “Now I can truly say I have five brothers.”[8]

This is the true spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi, which has nothing in common with Pope Francis’ inter-religious approach.

Pretend the Magisterium has not Spoken

A common tactic of modern ecumenists is to pursue their interfaith program and pretend the magisterium has not spoken on the matter.

Yet today’s ecumenism, and particularly Pope Francis’ ecumenical actions at the Blue Mosque, stands condemned by perennial papal teaching against religious indifferentism.

One example among many: Pope Pius VIII forcefully condemned religious indifferentism in the encyclical
Traditi humilati nostrae:

“And this is the lethal system of religious indifferentism, which is repudiated by the light of natural reason itself. In this light we are warned that, among many religions which disagree with one another, when one is true, anther must necessarily be false, and we are further admonished that
there can be no association with light and darkness. Against these repeaters of ancient errors, the people must be assured, Venerable Brethren, that the profession of the Catholic Faith is alone the true one, since the Apostle tells us that there is one Lord and one baptism. As Jerome says, the man who eats the Lamb outside of this house is profane, and the man who is not in the ark of Noah is going to perish in the deluge. Neither is there any other name apart form the Name of Jesus give to men by which we must be saved. He who believes will be saved, and he who shall not have believed will be condemned.”[9] 

Can anyone even imagine Pope Francis speaking like this?

The Church always condemned Catholics praying in public with false religions, as it places the one true Faith of Christ on the same base level as counterfeit creeds.

As the eminent Bishop George Hay teaches, the Church “has constantly forbidden her children to hold any communication, in religious matters, with those who are separated from her communion; and this she has sometimes done under the most severe penalties.”

In the Apostolic canons, which are of very ancient standing, and for the most part handed down from the apostolic age, it is decreed: "If any bishop, or priest, or deacon, shall join in prayers with heretics, let him be suspended from Communion" (Can. 44).

Further,"If any clergyman or laic shall go into the synagogue of the Jews [or by extension, to a Mosque], or the meetings of heretics, to join in prayer with them, let him be deposed, and deprived of communion". (Can. 63)      

Likewise, in at the Council of Carthage held in the year 398, at which Saint Augustine was present, the Church declares: "None must either pray or sing psalms with heretics; and whosoever shall communicate with those who are cut off from the Communion of the Church, whether clergyman or laic, let him be excommunicated". (Coun. Carth. iv. 72 and 73).[10]

To conclude: Pope Francis’ actions are a rupture with true Catholic doctrine of the past. His activities encourage religious indifferentism, scandalizing Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

He is also a fount of bad example. Bishops and priests the world over will continue to imitate these ecumenical gestures and thus confuse their flock, effectively telling them that 2,000 years of Catholic doctrine in this regard is of no account.

We resist this ecumenical contagion, recalling the words of the revered Cardinal Torquemada who taught: “Thus it is that Pope Innocent III states (
De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey the Pope in all things as long as he, himself, does not go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, he need not be followed” on these points.[11]

May Heaven soon send us a Pope who will “confirm the brethren,” rather than scandalize the faithful and mollycoddle infidels.


[1] “For the ‘First Time in History’, ‘silent adoration’ and open prayer by a Pope in a Mosque,” Le Figaro, November 29, 2014, translated from the French and posted by Rorate Caeli, November 29, 2014.
[2] All quotes taken from
The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, an objective, non-sentimental account of the Saint’s life written by Father Cuthbert, O.S.F.C, an erudite Catholic historian. [New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1916], pp. 278-281.
[3] Ibid, p. 12.
[4] Sadly, this is a direct quote from Pope John Paul II. See “On Pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai,” Origins, March 9, 2000. Regarding John Paul II’s disappointing commitment to ecumenical novelties, Fr. Joseph de Sainte Marie, who was a theologian and loyal son of the Pope, emitted the broken-hearted lament and warning: “In our day, and it is one of the most obvious signs of the extraordinarily abnormal character of the current state of the Church, it is very often the case that the acts of the Holy See demand of us prudence and discernment” (Cited from
Apropos, Isle of Skye, Scotland, No. 16, 1994, p. 5).
Admonitio prima de Corpore Christi (Quaracchi edition, p. 4), quoted in Johannes Jorgensen, St. Francis of Assisi (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912), p. 55.
[6] Cuthbert,
Life, p. 283.
[7] Ibid., p. 284.
[8] Ibid., p. 285.
[9] Pope Pius VIII,
Traditi humilati nostrae, May 24, 1829 [Emphasis added].
[10] From Bishop Hay’s
The Sincere Christian. See excerpt on line: “Ecumenism Condemned by Sacred Scripture” (CFN webpage).
[11] Cardinal Torquemada, explaining that it is possible for even a Pope to err, teaches: “Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scriptures, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law,
he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands he is to be disregarded. See Summa de ecclesia (Venice: M. Tranmezium, 1561). Lib. II, c. 49, p. 163B. The English translation of this statement of Juan de Torquemada is found in Patrick Granfield, The Papacy in Transition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p. 171. And in Father Paul Kramer, A Theological Vindication of Roman Catholic Traditionalism, 2nd ed. (Kerala, India), p. 29. Emphasis added.
Posted November 29, 2014

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