News reports out of Italy indicate that a potential terror attack on Pope Francis was thwarted today when four suspects were arrested in two countries:
Acting on a tip from the FBI, Italian authorities arrested four people in Italy and Kosovo Tuesday who were suspected of planning an attack on Pope Francis, the Local reported. The seat of the Roman Catholic Church is the Vatican, situated just outside of Rome, where security has been high since the Islamic terror group known as the Islamic State, ISIS or Daesh, threatened attacks on the Italian capital.
All four people arrested by police during raids in Brescia, Vicenza and Perugia, Italy and Kosovo are from Kosovo, a region inside Serbia in southeastern Europe where international recognition remains disputed. The four people stand accused of participation in a terror ring with specific intent to target the pope.
“The [alleged] terrorist team propagated the ideology of jihad through social networks,” police said, as reported by the Local. The group allegedly claimed on social media that Francis would be “the last pope.”
Some will no doubt ask themselves: why, when Pope Francis has been so conciliatory and even complimentary toward Muslims, would they want to kill him?
1P5’s Islamic expert Andrew Bieszad offered an explanation in his article, Does the Islamic State Want to Assassinate the Pope? 5 Things Catholics Need to Know:
As I’ve previously written, the public statements made by Pope Francis concerning Islam are not only incorrect, but dangerous. Despite the pope’s attempts to be conciliatory towards Islam, it is a religion inherently prone to violence. According to Islamic theology, an individual’s human dignity is conditional upon their belief in and practice of Islam. Non-Muslims, while they possess the form and attributes of persons, are (according to long-held Islamic understanding) no different than animals, and can be treated as such. This makes violent treatment of non-Muslims entirely acceptable according to the precepts of the Islamic faith.
The Catholic Faith instructs us that God is Love (1 John 4:8), and that we must show charity even to our enemies. As Catholics, we abhor ideology that does not honor basic human dignity.
But for Muslims, the understanding of non-Muslims as somehow less than human is simply a reality that cannot be changed, since Islam teaches that this is a truth which has been divinely revealed. Islam defines Allah’s nature in terms of his will, since Allah does what he wills (Quran 14:29) for no reason other than will itself. The Catholic Faith honors and rewards mercy and love, and spreads by encouraging the hearts of men to seek the true way to go to God in a world filled with sin and evil. Islam, however, honors and rewards force and power, and promises the pinnacle of worldly delights and even vengeance as the consummate measure of blessing in this life and the hereafter.
Islam teaches that a Muslim may lie if it is done “in the cause of Allah.” What is this cause? It is traditionally defined by Islamic theologians as the process of making converts to Islam, or in fighting jihad. Muslims have a name for this form of lying: taqiyya. One of the most common forms of taqiyya in modern times has been the effort to spread the notion that Islam is a “religion of peace.” In reality, Islam is very clear that aggressive war against non-Muslims and religious piety are inseparably related:
“Verily, Paradise is under the shade of swords”
(Bukhari, Book 52, #73)
Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform a that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done…
The fact is that from an Islamic viewpoint, Pope Francis’ statements about the Muslim faith actually further Islamic beliefs. However, he is not only not of their faith but is the leader of the largest group of Christians in the world. In the Muslim mind, this sets up a paradox — an infidel of the highest order is supporting their religious ideas, yet he is manifestly not a Muslim. The question about Pope Francis for Muslims becomes whether is he going to fully accept Islam (since he is already promoting it) or persist in his infidelity, and thus merit the punishment for infidels. What Pope Francis may see as an act of outreach and solidarity to Muslims is actually interpreted by Islamic theology as a form of partial consent to the Islamic faith, and thus merits an aggressive push to encourage him to complete the process of his conversion to Islam.
How aggressive? There’s a reason why Islam is known as a religion which “converts by the sword.”
The fact is, despite the pope’s overtures of friendship toward Islam, it is impossible for Muslims to ever love and respect non-Muslims, as their theology forbids them from doing so. What they do respect is power. The way Catholics can earn the respect of Muslims is not to apologize for our beliefs, but to stand firm in them, and persist in spite of all opposition. To win converts from Islam, the Catholic Church must show strength and promulgate truth greater than that shown Islam itself. It can do this by holding its ground, professing without fear the Gospel of “Christ crucified” and the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus – outside the Church, there is no salvation.
Anything less is asking for trouble.
That’s only the first reason. See the other four here.
Remember, too, that the Islamic State invariably mentions in its statements that it plans to attack Rome. Some commentators have interpreted this to mean a broad metaphor for the West, and of those nations that comprise the remains of Christendom. But ISIS made its specific aims quite clear when a picture of its flag was photoshopped onto the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square last year on the cover of Dabiq, the official publication of the Islamic State:
Islam has a long memory. The soldiers of ISIS are still fighting the great battles of history, especially those in which the forces of Islam lost to the Catholic armies of Europe. Whether or not the individuals arrested today were capable of carrying out an attack, the threat to the Vatican is real. As I’ve written before, it’s time for Rome to wake up be ready.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.