Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, assumes the papal throne at a time when Christians in many countries around the world are more threatened, and are living more precariously, than they have for centuries. Christians face violent persecution on an increasingly frequent basis in Pakistan, Egypt, and Nigeria, and to a lesser degree in Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Yet for the most part the Church in recent years has been silent about this persecution, and in the West has pursued "dialogue" with Islamic groups that glosses over the grim and bloody realities that all too many Christians in the Islamic world face. Will Pope Francis end this deceptive and fruitless posturing and raise his voice for his threatened and embattled brethren?
The Catholic Church has adopted an irenic stance toward Islam ever since the Second Vatican Council issued its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) in 1964. This document asserts that the "plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind" (16).
The statement that "the plan of salvation also includes" Muslims has led some to assert that the Council Fathers were saying that Muslims and Islam should not be criticized or challenged. This has become such an axiomatic assumption for many Christian clerics that they dare not utter a word to disrupt Muslim-Christian "dialogue" even when Muslims worldwide shed the blood of innocent Christians with increasing impunity.