For the first time in his papacy, Pope Francis met with clerical sex abuse victims at the Vatican on July 7, 2014.

Pope Francis to Jews: We're all under attack now

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Christians are suffering the same "savage attacks" once suffered by Jews, Pope Francis told a delegation of prominent Jewish leaders, according to the head of the World Jewish Congress.

For the first time in his papacy, Pope Francis met with clerical sex abuse victims at the Vatican on July 7, 2014.

Pope Francis told Jewish leaders that Christians in the Middle East are now suffering the same kind of "savage attacks" once directed at Jews.

Ronald S. Lauder led a delegation of 40 Jewish leaders who met Francis at his Santa Marta residence late Wednesday (Sept. 17) to mark Rosh Hashanah, the upcoming Jewish New Year.

Lauder told reporters on Thursday that the WJC and the pope were "in absolute agreement" in condemning militant attacks on Christians in the Middle East and said the pope had compared the persecution to attacks on the Jews.

"Francis told us privately that he believes we are in World War III, but unlike the first two world wars, instead of happening all at once, this war is coming in stages," Lauder said.

"He said first it was your turn and now it is our turn. In other words, first Jews suffered savage attacks that were met with the world's silence and now it is Christians who are being annihilated and the world is silent."

Lauder said he was surprised at the muted global reaction to the slaughter and persecution of Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

"The question is: Why doesn't the world react? There has been a tremendous focus on Israel when it defended itself, as any country would, when thousands of rockets were fired on it by terrorists, but not a word for the thousands of Christians in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East."

"There is one country in the Middle East where Christians are safe, and that country is Israel.There is only one country in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing, and that country is Israel. Today the world does not have the luxury of remaining silent."

Lauder said he had first met the Argentine pope when he was still living and working in Buenos Aires and stressed he had done "a fantastic job" bringing Jews and Christians together.

Among the Jewish leaders who joined Lauder for his audience with the pope were  Jack Terpins, president of the Latin American Jewish Congress; Chella Safra, treasurer of the WJC; and a number of Jewish community leaders and senior WJC officials.

"We want to share with the pope our message of peace and prosperity for the New Year," said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the LAJC and the WJC official in charge of relations with the Vatican.

Lauder has repeatedly said that the oppression of Christians is one of the world's most pressing issues, and in a recent op-ed published in The New York Times, Lauder said Jews had a duty to speak up on behalf of Christians.

"The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries," he wrote in the op-ed piece published In August.

Lauder, the son of cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, is a businessman, art collector and philanthropist. He was elected president of the WJC in 2007.




  1. “The question is: Why doesn’t the world react?”

    Could it be that everyone is afraid of being “Islamophobic?” Has RNS helped, even in a small way, contribute to the creation of an Islamophobiaphobic environment? Why have the US and world media largely ignored the story of the Muslim man who executed several people (in Seattle and New Jersey) as retribution for America’s alleged crimes against Islam? Do the murders qualify as “religious news?”

  2. More likely the answer is, they don’t care. This is going on in Iraq and Syria. When the US and NATO tries to get involved they get branded as imperialists and interventionists.

    Of course that never stopped Iran and Saudi Arabia from arming the forces which are committing the genocidal acts. But nobody ever calls those countries out on their foreign adventures.

    The US can’t do anything in Syria without getting all of its neighbors involved and being a total mess. ISIS is opposed by a government who are just as murderous over there. Iraq is far too embarrassing. We are cleaning up a mess we created over a decade ago. We want to do something, but nobody wants to be the one who ordered a massive troop deployment over there.

  3. Who cares for the Christians? I think we all do. Remove them from the Middle East. It appears a new government is in order in Iraq and Syria, one supported by Nato, where war and revenge killings are criminalized and the perpetrators locked up, if not executed. Yes, we need to pay more attention to who is here in the US and hold them responsible for hate crimes/revenge killings. When Americans start joining ISIS, ISIL, the US has failed to determine or predict that.some religions are not based on Godly acts, but of the most sinister behavior known to man, and that a healthy environment that conflicts with these cults is necessary in breeding justice, equality, and love. Therefore, Mosques need to be watched for radical teachings.

  4. The Christian population in the Holy Land isn’t growing, it’s shrinking, as many lose hope of any peaceful solution to the conflict and move away. If the Chrisitian population is growing at all in Israel proper, as opposed to the occupied territories, it’s because Israel has engaged many thousands of Asians, principally Philippinos, to do the kind of domestic chores once done by Palestinians.

  5. Lets not forget the deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians in Gaza by fellow Palestinians and their exclusion of power in the West Bank by Fatah.

    If Israel is importing Christians from Asia, that would mean its population is growing. Just not the homegrown version of Christianity.

    We are not going to do squat in Syria. It was our lack of involvement which helped create ISIS. By not backing any given opposition group to Assad, we made it easy for the Saudis to arm their favorites, the extremist Sunnis. ISIS represents a proxy force for the Saudis in their ongoing conflict with Iran and its allies, like Syria.

  6. Maybe the courageous (cowardly???) members of the media are afraid some Moslems will do a “Foley” on them so they doctor the news accordingly.

  7. Re: “Could it be that everyone is afraid of being ‘Islamophobic?'”

    Not quite. I know “political correctness” is a major bogeyman these days, and it’s a conspiracy that’s authored nearly all the world’s most serious ills … but it probably isn’t sufficient, by itself, to force the occidental world to stand by and let people be slaughtered. What’s more likely is that the occidental world sees no ready way to intervene on their behalf and do anything about it that won’t get it mired in another decade-long conflict that could very well end up making things even worse for the people they’d like to save, and ultimately lose more lives than might have been saved.

    The Middle East is, for better or worse, an extremely messy place. It’s just not that easy to decide to go and save the Christians (or the Druze or the Yazidi or whoever else) and then launch the fighters, bombers, cruise missiles, etc. If the U.S. has learned nothing else from having invaded Iraq, it’s that. We, and the rest of the world, have learned that lesson very well.

    And to be clear, it’s not just Christians (or Yazidi or Druze or whoever else) who are victims of the Middle East’s messiness. Other Muslim groups, typically minority sects in any given area, are victims as well. This is not a case of it being “the Muslims against the rest of the world” with the rest of the world consciously choosing to fight back solely in order not to appear not to be “Islamophobic.” It is, rather, a vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around.

    Until the people of the Middle East collectively grow up and accept that there are actually people in the world who disagree with them, no intervention can ever really be helpful.

  8. Woops. Should have been “… the rest of the world consciously choosing NOT to fight back solely in order not to appear …”

  9. So where are all the Christians speaking out in support of gay people being slaughtered in Africa? Oh that’s right; it’s the Christians doing the slaughtering. But I notice Pope Franky doesn’t say anything about that.

  10. Now we see why people are forced to defend themselves and wars are started. Any more examples necessary? Freedom is not without expense! Let the ivory towers postulate…

  11. God’s kingdom or heavenly government will soon put an end to all corrupt governments of man and replace them, (Daniel 2:44) as well as put an end to all wicked ones/terrorists on our planet (Psalm 37:10,11).

    That government is able to read the heart conditions of the wicked ones and man does not have that ability. The government will also rule with righteousness, love and justice (Isaiah 11:1-9).

    In the meantime, we should put our trust in God and his heavenly government, since man’s governments do not have the love, nor the power, to put an end to ALL the terrible conditions on our planet; but God’s kingdom can and will.

  12. PsiCop, thank you! THAT was an excellent analysis of what going on in the Middle East. Sure, we blundered badly in our hubristic bombast and our rushing to engage the wrong foe after 9/11, but even so the Muslim world seems to be in constant bloody flux, and I am convinced would have/will remain so, whether to Western World so-called engages it or not. So…

  13. And who, pray tell, would that “vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around” be exactly? Does this vicious morass have some tell-tale sign by which we could identify it? Some book or historical leader with whom its components identify? Is there some common doctrine these immature people all say they subscribe to? I am sure there has to be, but what could it be? I mean do they all say they are Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?

  14. Where to start?
    One has to bear in mind if not for oil, world concern and reach of political extremists in the region would be limited and of little note to the developed world. (like in Sub-Sahara Africa)

    We have vicious autocratic governments in the region. A leftover from colonialism, being part of other peoples’ empires and the Cold War. Neither side of the Cold War had any interest in democracy in the region as long as oil flowed. Despite the insinuations of people looking to tar and feather the entire religion of Islam, prior to 1979, the major motivation for political violence in the region was entirely secular: nationalism and radicalism. Professional terrorists prior to the end of the Cold War were largely extreme leftists, separatists or nationalists. Most governments in the area were secular republics which actively suppressed religious extremism in the name of economic progress.

    The 1979 Iranian revolution made Islamic extremism a game changer. In response to Iran’s aggressive attempts to spread its influence, the Saudis/Gulf States tried to beat them at their own game by exploiting the Shia/Sunni divide.

    Said governments constantly use divide and rule tactics which spur tribalist/sectarian violence as a way to prevent organized opposition. The autocrats also encourage Islamicist extremism as a way to divert potential revolutionaries towards foreign jihad and to create the sense of dissent without its actuality (which is why the Muslim Brotherhood could survive in Egypt for over 40 years but no moderate democratic parties did).

    Islamicism serves a function in the Middle East of extending international reach of many players such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Much of the Syrian Civil War is a proxy fight between those two countries for control of the Levant.

    What Al Queda did was hijack Islamicism for its own personal ends. Osama Bin Laden was able to tap into the existing government sponsored religious extremism and redirect it for his own aggrandizement. 9/11 was the world’s most deadly publicity stunt. No matter what happened it would have looked like a victory for Osama. Al Queda went from a hobby of a spoiled rich kid playing at being a terrorist to the most visible and important organization of all time. Al Queda is less an organization than it is a franchise. The “Hello Kitty” of Terrorism. They lent their name out to anyone willing to say they were violent Islamicists.

    Of course now Al Queda is being squeezed out by ISIS a group of professional Islamicists with deep pockets from Saudi petrodollars. As it seems the amateurs are being displaced by national actors.

    “Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?”

    All of the above are known for acts of extremist violence. Pirate Fans being the worst. 🙂

  15. 1. We arm the crap out of the Kurds. They are the only party in Iraq/Syria willing provide refuge and defend those being massacred by ISIS, Sunni and Shia militias.

    2. We encourage Israel and Jordan to take in refugees.

    3. Let Iran and Saudi Arabia fight over Syria. A pox on all of their houses.

  16. Re: “And who, pray tell, would that ‘vicious morass of bloodthirsty medieval barbarians who’re too immature to figure out that living together is better than slaughtering everyone else around’ be exactly?”

    If this is a question you felt the need to ask, then any answer I could give you would go right past you.

    Re: “Does this vicious morass have some tell-tale sign by which we could identify it?”

    Um, I’d say one “tell-tale sign” of such primitive barbarism would be capturing reporters, holding them captive for months, then beheading them. All for no rational reason ( and particularly because reporters can’t really harm them at all).

    Re: “I mean do they all say they are Baptists? Mormons? Jews? Hindus? Pittsburgh Pirate fans?”

    If any of those groups start engaging in primitive barbaric behaviors, then it would be wise to call them primitive barbarians. Let me know when it happens. Especially when it’s Pittsburgh Pirates fans who start beheading people.

  17. Re: “We have vicious autocratic governments in the region. A leftover from colonialism, being part of other peoples’ empires and the Cold War.”

    If I may point out the obvious … not every former colony has devolved into the sort of primitive barbarism exhibited by ISIS/ISIL, nor have they all become “vicious autocratic governments.” It IS possible for an ex-colony to not go that route. Really! I’d say the US accomplished this after breaking from Britain. So too did a lot of the other Commonwealth states (Canada, Australia, etc.). And ex-colonies of other European mother-states have managed the same feat.

    Suggesting these things are an unavoidable and inevitable consequence of colonialism only serves to indulge autocrats and barbarians, and grants them an easy rationale for their bad behavior. Let’s try not to give it to them.

Leave a Comment