One of the loudest cheerleaders for Islamic migration to Europe is Pope Francis. His predecessors called for the revival of a historically Christian Europe, but he makes no such call. Future historians will no doubt find it perplexing that the emergence of “Eurabia” happened not in spite of the Roman pontiff but in part because of him. “Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century,” predicted the historian Bernard Lewis.
Those who fear that prospect and push the project of a revived Christian Europe the most receive the least support from the pope — such as Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary — while the pope gives cover to the secularists de-Christianizing Europe.
To such foreshadowing of Eurabia, the pope just shrugs. He is determined to view Islam in the rosiest manner possible.
In 2016, Pope Francis received the inaptly named “Charlemagne Prize” from a group of liberal Europeans. He devoted his acceptance speech to praise of a “new European humanism,” the very ideology that is driving the Christianity of Charlemagne out of Europe. “I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being,” the pope said. Around this same time, he gave an interview to the press criticizing European countries that give a privileged place to Christianity. “States must be secular,” he said. “Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of history.” He added that “when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful.”
The creation of Christian Europe, in other words, was a mistake from the pope’s perspective. It should have been religiously neutral from the start. This is a pretty gobsmacking claim from a pope, and it explains his disdain for the most self-consciously Christian European leaders. (He is scheduled to visit Hungary in September, but recent reports suggest planning for the trip is fraught with “tensions.”)
Orbán has said that Europe’s Christian identity is disappearing under an open-borders ideology that awards “those arriving [who] have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture.” What he considers bad, the pope considers good. The more immigrants from Islamic countries pour into Europe, the more he praises “migration.” In 2016, he called on “every parish, every religious community, every monastery” to accommodate Muslim immigrants. This led to one preposterous controversy at an Italian parish where Catholics were told by the Catholic organization Caritas to “pray in silence” lest they disturb the “migrants” staying there.
The cultural and religious implications of Islamic immigration to Europe simply don’t interest the pope. He breezily says that in “encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another.” Hungary’s bishops find this sentimental claptrap baffling. “This is an invasion,” Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo has said. “They come here with cries of ‘Allahu Akbar.’ They want to take over.”
To such foreshadowing of Eurabia, the pope just shrugs. He is determined to view Islam in the rosiest manner possible. One would never know from his musings that Islam is a historic adversary of the Church. Though quick to call for reforms of his own religion, he refuses to hear any criticism of Islam. It is a “religion of peace,” he insists. He claims that the Koran is “opposed to every form of violence.” He seconds all the excuses European liberals make for Islam. Its problem with jihadists, he says, is no different than his problem with “fundamentalists”: “We have our share of them. All religions have these little groups.”
The late Italian writer Oriana Fallaci expressed astonishment that European liberals fail to see the illiberal character of Islam and could so blithely assume its compatibility with European culture. The pope falls into that group, seeing Islam as neither a threat to Christian Europe nor secular Europe. Even after Islamic terrorists mowed down 10 journalists at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015, he couldn’t be roused to defend Western values. “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others,” he said.
He speaks of Orbán and other “populists” as a menace to liberal European values but exempts Islam from that criticism. He is given to the most remarkable rationalizations for it. “I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” he said after a French priest was beheaded by jihadists in 2016. The “first terrorism,” he said, is the greed “at the center of the global economy.”
“Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe,” said the English writer Hilaire Belloc. This pope’s dissent from that tradition will form one of the more bizarre legacies of his pontificate. It is as if the Vatican has become a branch office of CAIR. The papacy has gone from defending Christian Europe from Muslims to handing it to them.