New York, 25 September, 2015.
In a move that surprised most observers, Pope Francis has delivered a fiery oration calling the West to arms in defence of our civilisation against an increasingly militant Muslim world.
In the part of the speech dealing specifically with the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, His Holiness said:
“If it were announced to you that the enemy has invaded your cities, your castles, your land; had ravished your wives and your daughters, and profaned your temples – which among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all those calamities and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils – to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people? Remember that their triumph will be a subject of grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.
“Fly then to arms; let the holy rage animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet: “Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!” If the Lord calls you to the defence of his heritage, think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve legions of angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.
“Christian warriors, He who gave his life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven; abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms, and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”
It didn’t take you long to detect the hoax, did it? Of course not. The speech was indeed delivered, but I used a wrong attribution.
The speaker wasn’t Pope Francis but St Bernard of Clairvaux. The place wasn’t the American city of New York but the Burgundian town of Vézelay. And the date wasn’t 25 September, 2015, but 31 March 1146.
Bernard had been asked by Pope Urban II to preach a Second Crusade. So he did, outside the St Mary Magdalen Basilica overlooking the town from the top of a steep hill.
A huge crowd, including Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, gathered and, looking down from St Bernard’s vantage point, the basilica close and the hill slope must have looked like a sea of human heads. The sea was still: everyone was hanging on to every rousing word.
Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not wishing for another Holy Crusade – and I’m certainly not going to advocate anything like that in print.
It’s just that… well, don’t you wish sometimes that our civilisation were still animated by the same indomitable spirit, still led by the same type of men?
Instead we have an utterly corrupted populace enthusiastically applauding Pope Francis’s sermons of political correctness, multiculturalism and nonviolence – whatever the provocation.
Well, that’s progress for you. St Bernard didn’t even know the word. It probably didn’t exist in his backward time. And if it did, it certainly didn’t mean a civilisation cutting its own moral and spiritual throat.