Pope Francis set a record by canonizing 800 15th Century laymen that refused to convert to Islam and brutally died because of it.
It is a story of faith and strength in the face of death, death from a brutal and barbaric people.
But NBC is worried for poor Pope Francis. They are worried that acknowledging that these 800 heroes died true martyrs death and thus are assured of heaven, that the Pope may have hurt Islam’s feelings. But no worries, there is someone more evil than the Pope to blame.
But the choice to highlight their sacrifice may put a strain on the already fragile relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam.
Ever since his election, Pope Francis has called for greater dialogue between Christianity and other religions, in particular Islam. And so far, he has acted on that promise. He washed the feet of a young Muslim woman jailed in a juvenile prison on Holy Thursday, and reached out to the many “Muslim brothers and sisters” during his first Good Friday procession.
So why risk creating yet another inter-faith row with a celebration which some in the Muslim world may be seen as a provocation?
The answer is that it wasn’t Pope Francis’ choice in the first place. The decision to canonize the hundreds of Otranto martyrs was rubber-stamped by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on Feb. 11 – the same day he announced his resignation.
It was a departing act of a pontiff that had become concerned about the mounting discrimination suffered by Christian minorities living in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab spring.
Pope Francis shares his predecessor’s concern. “By venerating the martyrs of Otranto” he said at Sunday’s canonization mass, “We ask God to protect the many Christians who in these times, and in many parts of the world, are still victims of violence”.
Pope Benedict ‘rubber-stamped’ it? What is that supposed to mean? Anyway, 800 men brutally died at the hand of Islam (as they do today) and we are supposed to worry that acknowledging their sacrifice is a provocation? The only people who could possibly be provoked by such a thing are the same barbarians that needed to be defeated 500 years ago.
I think this is important diplomatically. In an age where Christian are routinely murdered by Islamists for no other reason than being Christian, this is an important message and a reminder to send. There are those of us left that will never convert and that will die for our cause rather than profess a lie. And we will eventually win.