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The Pope Supports Immigration. Why Not for Asia Bibi?

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Pope Francis smells a Christmas panettone cake offered to him by a pastry chef during the weekly general audience in Paul VI hall on December 19, 2018 at the Vatican. (Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis smells a Christmas panettone cake offered to him by a pastry chef during the weekly general audience in Paul VI hall on December 19, 2018 at the Vatican. (Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Last summer, Pope Francis celebrated a special mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for migrants and those who care about them. He denounced the “sterile hypocrisy” of those who turn a blind eye to the world’s poor, whom he said were only seeking security and a dignified life.

Such language has been part of the Bishop of Rome’s propaganda whereby he has continually criticized heads of state for not welcoming enough migrants fleeing war, poverty and climate-induced natural disasters. Yet words can be cheap, if not hypocritical, if they are not followed by actions, as with the Vatican’s present position on Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.

Although acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on blasphemy charges (for which she spent nearly a decade in prison), she has been unable to leave the Pakistan, since she has yet to be offered asylum by any Western country.

When her husband, Ashiq Masih, asked the Italian government to assist on this matter, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, speaking for the pope, stated:

“It’s an internal matter of Pakistan, I hope it can be resolved in the best way…I do not know how it will end, there have been many reactions…The question is not simple, it is very complex and delicate. Always we hope that it ends in the best way.” 

The Asia Bibi “non-interference” (read: double-standard) position on the part of Francis should not be surprising. It, in fact, falls within his Islamic political agenda, as he continually insists Islam is a religion of peace and it can and should coexist in the Western world (notwithstanding the violent verses in both the Quran and the hadiths that call for the Islamization of society).

The pope made this obvious when he met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan in Vatican City in February 2018, in which both leaders discussed joint efforts against xenophobia and Islamophobia, stressing that calling out Islam for terror is wrong.

This, in turn, has kept him and most Catholic bishops and cardinals from associating the slaughters by Islamists to the texts they quote which justify their barbaric behavior, such as the recent killings at the Strasbourg Christmas Festival or the beheading of two female backpackers from Denmark and Norway by ISIS supporters.

Pope Francis will soon visit Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (and home to a quarter of a million Catholics who are mostly foreign workers). In February 2019, he will participate in an international interfaith meeting there on “Human Fraternity.”

According to a 2018 Human Rights Watch report, the UAE arbitrarily detains individuals, such as Emirati human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who was picked up for exercising his right to free expression. Individuals who criticize the government simply “disappear.” In addition, the UAE has continued to play a leading role in the Saudi-led genocide in Yemen.

Yet on these points, the pope has been silent.

I do not wish, nor is it my place, to judge the intentions of church officials, but it is difficult not to question their actions in light of the enmity the pope feels against world politicians who oppose immigration. Is this the only response by the Church to the Islamic body politic that governs according to the draconian norms of sharia law?

Willfully omitting any criticisms of those Islamic regimes that continue to commit human rights violations in the name of Islam makes his defense for the marginalized and disadvantaged come off as shallow. In fact, he has been harsh on those who speak the truth about the Islamist threat.

While it is understandable why the Vatican does not want to take a public position that would create severe backlash for those persecuted in Islamist countries, pragmatic diplomacy cannot be pursued at the cost of standing up for human rights, for it only emboldens the Islamist elite.

Yet, as with Western politicians, Church leaders betray their own principles and abandon Christians and other minorities of the Middle East and in other parts of the world where they are being persecuted.

In other words, they too contribute to the chaos created by Islamists.

 

RELATED STORIES

An Open Letter to Pope Francis 

Egyptian Muslim Leader to Pope: Declare Islam a Religion of Peace

What the Pope Should Know Before He Visits Egypt 

 

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Mario Alexis Portella

Portella holds an MA in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York and a double doctorate in Canon Law and Civil Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Portella is an American priest at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy and Chancellor of its archdiocese. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace? - The Violation of Natural Rights and Western-Cover-Up.

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