- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pope Francis seemingly sent mixed messages to 1.2 billion Catholics Tuesday while talking about Europe’s refugee crisis.

A reporter for France’s La Croix told the pope that Europeans were “partly” reticent of accepting refugees from the Middle East and North Africa due to fear, and he then asked if such feelings were justified.

“I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of [the Islamic State group] and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam,” the pope said Tuesday, the Catholic newspaper reported. “However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”

The pontiff then said western nations should primarily focus on how their own policies contributed to the refugee crisis instead of “ghettoizing” new arrivals.

“We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, ‘We used to have one Gadhafi, now we have 50,’” the pope said. “Ultimately, co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible. I come from a country where they co-habit on good terms. Muslims come to venerate the Virgin Mary and St George. Similarly, they tell me that for the Jubilee Year Muslims in one African country formed a long queue at the cathedral to enter through the holy door and pray to the Virgin Mary.

“In Central Africa, before the war, Christians and Muslims used to live together and must learn to do so again,” he said. “Lebanon also shows that this is possible.”

The pope failed to mention that in his home country of Argentina, Muslims are less than two percent of the population. Pew Research Center data compiled in 2009 concluded there were only 784,000 Muslims in Argentina.

France had 4.8 million Muslims living within its borders as of 2010, or 5.8 percent of the total population, Pew reported. The European Union as a whole was home to 13 million Muslims at that time.

American readers did not take kindly to the pope’s attempt to liken Christian proselytizing to jihad.

“Idiotic. ‘Make disciples of all nations’ is not the same as convert or die,” Washington Post reader Brandon Dixon said Tuesday. “Jesus was a pacifist, Muhammad was a warrior/terrorist.”

“This Pope is becoming a useful idiot for Islamism,” added another.

The Vatican accepted three families of refugees from Syria in late April. The pope brought 12 individuals back with him after visiting the Aegean island of Lesbos on April 18.

“I felt the spirit was talking to us,” the pope said at the time, Reuters reported.

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