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Monday, May 13, 2013

Pope Francis: Treading lightly on Muslim toes

Otranto Castle (Photo by Attilios)
Although Italian newspaper Il Giornale described the martyrs of Otranto (recently canonized by Pope Francis) as "victims of Islam," Francis himself avoided any derogatory references to the historical details of their martyrdom.

Not that there weren't any.  He could have easily talked about how the Ottoman forces under Gedik Ahmed Pasha in 1480 CE skewered, cut to pieces, and beheaded those 813 Ortranto-based Christians who refused to convert to Islam.   However, to be fair, he would then have also had to discuss the atrocities that Christians and followers of many
other religions have committed throughout the centuries.

Pope Francis instead chose another route. He chose to affirm the faith of these martyrs while not emphasizing the religious affiliation of their assailants.  The Guardian reports that he expressed himself this way to a recent crowd in St. Peter's Square:  "As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, today and in many parts of the world, now, still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage to be devout and to respond to evil with good."

The word "Islam" was never even mentioned.  Furthermore, the Vatican stated that this martyrdom should be understood within "the historical context of the wars that determined relations between Europe and the Ottoman empire for a long period of time."

Contextualization can go a real long way towards healing wounds that are centuries old.  It seems as though Francis is trying to soothe some of those deep ones between Muslims and Christians.      


Copyright May 13, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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