Pope Francis Canonizes Victims of Medieval Islamist Violence; NBCNews Worries It Offends Muslims

May 14th, 2013 3:43 PM

In their ongoing effort to attack the Catholic Church, it seems not even something as uncontroversial and routine as the pope canonizing new saints can happen without the liberal media find some way to work in an attack. Witness Claudio Lavanga's May 12 post at NBCNews.com headlined "A saint-making record is also a diplomatic headache for Pope Francis." [h/t Creative Minority Report]

"Pope Francis canonized more than 800 Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square Sunday – the largest number to be elevated to sainthood at once in the history of the Catholic Church," Lavanga noted. But alas, "The choice of some of the new saints was also striking, touching on the already-fragile relationship between Christianity and Islam" because the "new saints included hundreds of laymen from the southern Italian port town of Otranto who were slain in the 15th century by the invading Ottoman Turkish army after they refused to convert to Islam." 

After giving readers a brief history lesson into the invasion in 1480, Lavanga groused that Pope Francis's "choice to highlight their sacrifice may put a strain on the already fragile relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam." So who did Lavanga cite to substantiate that claim? Well, no one, it turns out.

You'd think that Lavanga could have found at least one diplomat from a Muslim nation who found fault with the pick, but no. Lavanga had squat.

Well, that's not true, exactly. What Lavanga did have was an attack on the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, whom the media loved to attack as reactionary and as having an antipathy towards Muslims (emphasis mine):

[W]hy 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”.

The Vatican’s relationship with Islam took a nosedive in 2006 when Benedict – now the Pope Emeritus - enraged Muslims by quoting the 14th-century byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiogolos, who said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

It was an uncomfortable parting gift for his successor, who now faces an uphill struggle to rekindle ties with Islam.

Again, Lavanga had nothing to back up his claims, nothing to prove the narrative he wished to engrain into the reader's imagination. Nor did Lavanga consider that the newly-canonized saints might be of great comfort to persecuted Catholics all throughout the world, regardless of whether they live in Muslim countries or not.

When Francis became pontiff, the liberal media saw glimmers of hope that he might be the liberal reformer they'd long hoped for. That appears to not be panning out, but the pontiff's humility and kindness to the poor and marginalized in society has seemed to inoculate Francis from harsher criticism.

But as this piece shows, to the extent that Francis follows in Benedict's footsteps, the liberal media will resurrect specious and unsubstantiated charges that conform to a left-wing narrative.