A Journal for The Contemporary Church

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Christian Muslim Dialogue: Continuity from Francis of Assisito Pope Francis


In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, St Francis of Assisi set out for Egypt to visit the head of the Muslim armies. The crusades were essentially holy wars prosecuted against the Saracens or Muslims. Pope Innocent III (1198-1226), a powerful and influential figure, approved of St Francis’ way of life. But he also instituted the Fourth and Fifth crusades which, like the others, were built on a theology of violence as can be seen from St Bernard of Clairvaux, a voracious advocate for them, writing in Praise of the New Militia (Chapter Three):

‘The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls … when he inflicts death it is to Christ’s profit, and when he suffers death, it is for his own gain. The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because Christ is glorified …’.