In becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, Pope Francis evoked his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who, near the end of his life, journeyed to Egypt to convert the Muslim Sultan to Christianity and ended up engaging him in a dialogue about peace. In last week's dialogue with Muslims in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), our latter-day Francis raised the issue that most mars peace between Catholics and Muslims: religious freedom.
Tu quoque! Pope Francis's interlocutors might well have pointed out that St. Francis encountered the Sultan on the front lines of the wars of the Crusades – not one of the Church's sparkling episodes of religious freedom. Or that early modern Catholic Spain expelled Muslims and Jews, who then found refuge under a different Sultan in the far more tolerant Ottoman Empire. Or that the Church conducted inquisitions and fought a century-and-a-half of religious wars with Protestants.