PopeWatch: Saint Francis

The Vatican is attempting to claim the example of Saint Francis as a support for the Pope’s bizarre joint statement with Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar:


In Catholic chronicles, St. Francis of Assisi’s meeting with the sultan of Egypt 800 years ago is enmeshed in pious legends; in Muslim sources, there’s barely a trace of the story of the Italian friar crossing battle lines during the Crusades.

Yet Pope Francis continues to draw attention to the meeting of St. Francis and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil in 1219 near Damietta, a port on the Nile River near where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

The pope sent Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, to Damietta in early March as his official representative at celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of the meeting.

At the main celebration March 1, Sandri referenced both the early biographies of St. Francis, which insisted the friar undertook his voyage in the hopes of converting the sultan to Christianity, and more recent presentations of the story as St. Francis trying to bring peace in the midst of the Crusades.

“The encounter at Damietta could be seen as a failure,” Sandri said. “The sultan did not convert, nor did his troops, and, for the most part, it did not modify the outcome of the Crusades.”

“Yet the memory of that dialogue has remained,” he said. “At Damietta, Francis was not afraid of Muhammad and the sultan was not afraid of the Gospel.”

For the Catholic Church, ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue are fundamentally different activities with different aims, although both usually begin by looking at beliefs and values the dialogue partners share.

Go here to read the rest.  That this is historical balderdash goes without saying:

In his classic book St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography, Omer Englebert tells us that immediately after returning from his visit with the sultan, St. Francis learned that five Franciscan brothers had been martyred in Morocco. While passing through Moorish Spain they had entered a mosque and denounced the Koran. They told the local ruler, “We have come to preach faith in Jesus Christ to you, so that you will renounce Mohammed, that wicked slave of the devil, and obtain everlasting life like us.” Hearing this report, St. Francis exclaimed, “Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!”

Go here to read the rest.


Saint Francis is probably the most popular Catholic saint among non-Catholics.  It is always pleasing of course for Catholics when non-Catholics recognize the heroic sanctity of one of their champions, but in the case of Saint Francis, PopeWatch fears this popularity among non-Catholics is largely due to a fundamental misunderstanding about Saint Francis.  Saint Francis is often portrayed as a precursor of the modern environmental movement, a pantheist and a pacifist, someone, in short, who was preaching a message in the thirteenth century that accords nicely with twenty-first century liberal secular sensibilities.

Of course none of this is true.   Saint Francis never preached any doctrines in accord with the modern ecological movement and simply was not concerned with those types of issues that were absolutely foreign to his time.  Saint Francis was a completely orthodox Catholic who worshiped God with such intensity that he was the first to receive the stigmata.  Saint Francis never breathed a word against the Crusades and participated in the Fifth Crusade to Egypt.

Non-Catholics can be forgiven for their confusion about Il Poverello.  A Pope has no such excuse.

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One Comment

  1. Saint Francis is often portrayed as a precursor of the modern environmental movement, a pantheist and a pacifist, someone, in short, who was preaching a message in the thirteenth century that accords nicely with twenty-first century liberal secular sensibilities.

    You forgot hippy St. Francis.

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