Before taking Francis to task, check to see what he really said.
A revised version of a Washington Times article makes a statement by Pope Francis a bit less shocking.
That’s because the corrected version does not have him saying that the Quran is a "prophetic book of peace."
The original lede ran thus:
“The Koran is a book of peace. It is a prophetic book of peace,” the pope said, United Press International reported.
Patheos blogger Thomas L. McDonald pointed out the error after checking another report, from Reuters, which said Pope Francis’ press conference on the plane ride back to Rome went this way:
Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, told reporters aboard his plane returning from a visit to Turkey that he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism.
The Argentine pope, who has been trying to foster cooperation with moderate Islam in order to work for peace and protect Christians in the Middle East, said it was wrong for anyone to react to terrorism by being "enraged" against Islam.
"You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups," he said.
"They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’."
So, take note: the Pope was reporting what
say about their own book. He wasn’t making his own theological judgment on whether the Muslim holy book speaks for God.
UPI, however, still says the Pope said the Quran is a prophetic book of peace.
The incident calls to mind Pope Benedict XVI’s famous Regensburg address, in which he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said that Islam is spread by the sword:
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…".
Of course, that’s too much to expect people to read, let alone the Pope’s entire
speech, so let’s just focus on the controversial statement:
Unfortunately, many Muslims understood the Pope’s words, through the lens of the mainstream media, as endorsing that view. That misunderstanding led to violent protests and several killings of Christians.
Pope Ratzinger then went to Turkey, for much the same reason Pope Francis went—for an ecumenical visit with the Orthodox leader there. But, perhaps as a way of assuaging Muslim anger, he also made a visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and prayed there standing next to an imam.
"The prayer in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque was ‘not initially planned but it turned out to be very meaningful,’" AsiaNews reported Benedict saying at a general audience after the trip. It was a prayer to the “one Lord of heaven and earth, merciful father of all mankind.”
Now we have another Pope who has gone to Turkey and returned, and comments he made, whether those reported or those mis-reported, have not led to protests and violence on the part of Christians, not even by those the Pope scorned as "our own fundamentalists." McDonald makes another point in this blog post, related to the varying kinds of reaction to papal pronouncements:
More problematic is the,
Hey we all have our nuts, amIright? comment from Francis. Christian fundamentalists are tacky and stupid and annoying, but only very rarely violent.
When a Christian goes fundie, you get Jack Chick and bad music and, sometimes, Eric Robert Rudolph.
When a Muslim goes fundie, you get the armies of ISIS, 9/11, jihad, beheadings, Jew-hate, and the destruction of civilizations.
Of the two faiths, one has tendency to violence and extremism that is rooted in elements of the faith itself, while the other does not. It’s a false equivalence.