Francis vs. Francis on genocide and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East

The Holy Father appears to have directly contradicted himself on what word(s) should be used in describing the plight of Christians being persecuted and killed.

This past Saturday, June 18th, the Holy Father visited Villa Nazareth—a home for orphans and poor children—in the Pineta Sacchetti area of Rome. The Vatican Insider reported the following:

Francis is not keen on the use of the word “genocide” to describe the situation faced by Christians in the Middle East: “I don’t like it – I wish to make this very clear -,” Francis said adopting a very serious tone, “when some refer to what is happening to Christians in the Middle East as a genocide. This is reductionism.” “Let us not turn a mystery of the faith, a form of martyrdom, into sociological reductionism,” he warned. “Those Christian Copts who had their throats slashed on the Libyan coast, all of them died saying ”Jesus, help me”. I am sure that the majority of them didn’t even know how to read but they were but doctors of Christian coherence, they were witnesses of the faith, in other words witnesses of the faith and the faith leads us to bear witness to so many difficult things in life.” “We shouldn’t fool ourselves,” “cruel martyrdom” isn’t the only way to give testimony of the Christian faith. There are more martyrs today than in centuries passed, today there is an everyday martyrdom, the martyrdom of patience, children’s education and faithfulness in love.” 

Less than a year ago, on July 9, 2015, Pope Francis said the following during his Apostolic journey to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay, about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as genocide:

I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically – though I said bishops, priests and laity, I do not wish to forget the religious sisters who have been so present to our poor neighborhoods, bringing a message of peace and wellbeing – ; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon. Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – I insist on the word – is taking place, and it must end. (emphasis added)

So, which one is it? The words “genocide” and “martydom”, of course, are not contrary to one another. The first describes the deadly actions of aggressors against a specific group of people; the latter describes the courageous response of Christians to persecution and death, in the name of Christ. 

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Carl E. Olson 1227 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.