Pope was right to avoid incendiary talk, yet what he said was wrong

Morning View
Morning View

Pope Francis spoke yesterday about the obscene murder of an 85-year-old priest at a church in Normandy on Tuesday.

The pontiff, en route to a visit to Poland, said that the world was at war.

He said: “The real word is war... yes, it’s war. This holy priest died at the very moment he was offering a prayer for all the church.”

He added: “I only want to clarify, when I speak of war, I am really speaking of war ... a war of interests, for money, resources ... I am not speaking of a war of religions, religions don’t want war. The others want war.”

It was entirely appropriate for the pope to be careful about what he said. No doubt he was anxious about inflaming prejudice against Muslims. Incendiary talk would be ill advised at this time, let alone from the head of the Catholic church.

Allowance also has to be made, when examining his exact words, for the fact that English is not the pontiff’s first language. But there is no escaping the fundamental fact that he has said something that is not true: “ ... the others want war ...”

Which others? Atheists? Business people? Farmers?

It is clear that a complex global conflict is unfolding, that stretches across thousands of miles, from north to south and east to west. The motivations are multiple: regional, sectarian, resources, and so on. But in country after country some of the most heinous attacks on civilians in modern history are being carried out in the name of Islam.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims repudiate such disgusting violence, but a core of fanatical adherents embrace it. Terrible things have also been done over the centuries in the name of Christianity, but not on a large scale now.

Father Jacques Hamel, aged 85, had his throat cut specifically because he was not merely a Christian, but a priest.

Plainly Islam is not solely to blame for the current global horror. But we should not deny the fact that a depraved, minority interpretation of it is now a serious threat to peace.