“What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope.”
The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) has executed three Westerners via beheading in only the last two months in addition to dozens more among prisoners taken in both Iraq and Syria. Now, however, they’re setting their sights on an even bigger target, Pope Francis, as he heads into a weekend trip to Albania. Emphasis below is mine.
Jihadists from Isil have in recent weeks boasted of wanting to extend their caliphate to Rome, the heart of Western Christendom, and have talked of planting the jihadist black flag on top of St Peter’s Basilica.
Habeeb Al Sadr (Iraq’s Ambassador to the Vatican) said there were also indications of a more specific threat against Pope Francis, who recently spoke out in favour of the US and its allies halting the advance of Isil in Syria and Iraq.
“What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible,” the ambassador told La Nazione, an Italian daily, on Tuesday.
The Vatican has denied that they have received specific threats against the Pope’s life however the Pope has made recent statements have definitely drawn the attention of extremists. Here’s the gist from the Pope via the Associated Press:
“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”
At no time has Pope Francis made any statement beyond his belief that the Islamic State must be stopped by the international community. The Islamic State, it appears, has taken this to be a full endorsement of military action and they aren’t the only ones. Vox.com’s Max Fisher let loose with a wide reaching article in mid-August entitled “News from 1096 AD: Pope discusses military force against Middle Eastern caliphate” despite the fact that the Pope, at no time, approved of military force against the Islamic State. Also interesting is that Fisher seems to be acknowledging the existence of a Middle Eastern caliphate, something no other country in the entire world of any religion has done. Here’s what Fisher claimed at the time:
There is good precedent for this. During the Middle Ages, between 1096 and 1272 AD, popes also endorsed the use of Western military action to destroy Middle Eastern caliphates. Those were known as the crusades; there were nine, which means that this would be number 10.
He later backtracked on this claim, saying that there was more nuance in the Pope’s statement than he’d originally thought however Vox neither changed the headline nor removed the article.
It’s odd that Fisher focused on what he then believed to be the Pope’s endorsement of military action against what every nearby Muslim nation acknowledges is possibly an existential threat presented by ISIS rather than the obvious, everyone in the world knows the Islamic State’s brutality must be put to a stop. The media’s often quick to try and declare a Crusade but, given the Pope’s words, this seems like a massive reach in this case for both the media and the Islamic State.
There’s little doubt that a successful assassination of a much beloved Pope would get a swift reaction from the world’s Catholic and Christian communities. That alone would seem to point that the idea should be off limits for the Islamic State, strategically. A true Crusader mindset has to be the last thing Middle East extremists should want, bluster or not.
Pope Francis will head to Turkey in November.