St. Francis of Assisi Spoke Christianity to the Sultan
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “You’re not supposed to do this. They’re jihadis. They’re Muslims. Find out where they are and kill them. This is pretty boilerplate American thinking today. I might add, this is pretty boilerplate Christian-American thinking today. Why on earth would Francis of Assisi walk into the sultan’s camp, ask to see the sultan knowing he was going to be beheaded, and tell him he was there to save his eternal soul?” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: This is from Rega’s book:
During the Fifth Crusade to Egypt, St. Francis of Assisi walked into a Muslim camp in order to preach Christianity and convert the sultan. Rega’s new book recounts St. Francis’s bold encounter with the sultan and other important events from the life of the man from Assisi . . .
Mike: Our friends at LifeSiteNews actually conducted this interview with Frank Rega back in 2008. John Henry Weston and the rest of the team do such great work over there.
LifeSiteNews: Could you summarize the history of the Fifth Crusade?
Frank Rega: Michael, thank you and LifeSiteNews for inviting me . . .
The Fifth Crusade was first called for by Pope Innocent III in 1215 at the Lateran Council. Innocent personally knew Francis and had approved his Rule in 1209 when Francis and his first followers went to Rome to seek Papal acceptance for his new Order. The crusade got underway in 1217 under Pope Honorius III. It lasted for four years, and was lost by the crusaders.
The goal was to first take Egypt before attempting to reach the Holy Land. In 1219 Francis was present in Egypt at the city of Damietta on the Nile, with some of his friars. That port city was eventually captured by the crusaders and held for over a year. But it was returned to the Muslims in 1221 after a crusader march on Cairo failed miserably, and the Christians gave up the crusade.
It was during a period of truce during the battle over Damietta in September 1219 that Francis preached to the Muslims, crossing over to the Muslim camp with Brother Illuminato, who was probably the interpreter.
LifeSiteNews: Why did St. Francis of Assisi support the Fifth Crusade?
Frank Rega: Francis understood that the Fifth Crusade was part of an ongoing just war in response to Muslim invasions of Christian lands, which included many attacks against Italian city-states all along the peninsula over the course of centuries. For example, in the year 846, Rome itself was sacked by 11,000 Muslims, who desecrated the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Further, the crusade was called for by the Holy Father, and it is well-known that Francis had perfect loyalty to the Catholic Church, and showed devout respect for priests and all the hierarchy. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he felt the crusade was justified on spiritual grounds. As mentioned in the book, Francis told the Sultan “It is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship.”
LifeSiteNews: What did St. Francis say and do when he entered the Muslim camp?
Frank Rega: It is important here to recognize the bravery of Francis. He preached to armed Muslims who a few days before had won a major skirmish at Damietta, killing about five thousand Christians. The Sultan, al-Malik al-Kamil was also the general of the Muslim army, and ruler of Egypt, Syria and Palestine. Francis first obtained permission from the Papal Legate to cross over the lines during a period of temporary truce. When he reached Muslim territory he and Brother Illuminato were taken prisoner, beaten and put in chains by the sentries.
Here we have an image of St. Francis that is utterly opposed to the statues of a docile friar surrounded by birds and other animals – St. Francis beaten and in chains! He was fully prepared for martyrdom. Upon meeting the saint, al-Malik asked him if he was a messenger from the crusaders. Francis replied that he was indeed a messenger, but a messenger from God. He then proceeded to give witness to his love for Jesus, and said that he wished to save the souls of the Sultan and his men.
Mike: You’re not supposed to do this. They’re jihadis. They’re Muslims. Find out where they are and kill them. This is pretty boilerplate American thinking today. I might add, this is pretty boilerplate Christian-American thinking today. Why on earth would Francis of Assisi walk into the sultan’s camp, ask to see the sultan knowing he was going to be beheaded, and tell him he was there to save his eternal soul? Could it be that in the day, the age of faith, back when men actually could and did reason and fought just wars for just reasons, even while they were fighting their just wars never abandoned their attachment and devotion to their faith? I think that’s how you would explain it. Listen to the rest of the story:
Frank Rega: Initially the Sultan was taken aback by Francis’ boldness. After all, the Muslims had just defeated the Christians in a pitched battle, and now one of them dares to state that the Muslims must convert to Christianity. However, the love flowing from Francis began to move the Sultan, and according to one contemporary writer . . .
Mike: When we say contemporary writer, what contemporary means when we’re talking history – always keep this in mind. If you’re reading something and it says “a contemporary writer said,” that would mean that they were who was writing at the time, not someone that came along after the fact. A contemporary account would be an account that was written at the time the event occurred. That’s what contemporary means.
. . . and according to one contemporary writer, “that cruel beast became sweetness himself.” However, the advisers to al-Malik, the imams, were not so impressed, and demanded that Francis and Illuminato should be beheaded in accordance with Islamic law.
Francis and his companion remained in the Muslim camp for many days, and parted on excellent terms with the Sultan. There is a story in the early Franciscan literature, described in my book, that al-Malik converted to the True Faith on his deathbed.
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Frank Rega: A traditional crusade by definition cannot be conducted today because it was a movement within Christendom to defend and counter-attack Muslim invasions of Christian lands. It was sponsored by the Church and relied on the support of Christian rulers and Kings. Without the backing of a strong Christendom, which no longer exists, a crusade as such would be impossible. [Mike: Obviously Mr. Rega doesn’t live in the “Christian” nation that the United States is.]
Furthermore, today an armed religious war would not be fruitful since the real battle is a “cold war” so to speak. It is a war of persuasion, conversion, and diplomatic dialog, since the Muslims have already launched their peaceful “invasion” of what was once Christian Europe. [Mike: And they’ve done it without having to fire very many shots, too, haven’t they?] Of course I am only addressing the religious aspects here, and not the war on terrorism, which is in the secular domain. [Mike: That’s where most people want to keep it, in the secular domain.]
LifeSiteNews: What can St. Francis teach Christians of today about relating to Muslims?
Frank Rega: First, I think it is important to realize that St. Francis did not openly attack the Muslim religion or Mohammed.
End Mike Church Show Transcript