In the face of Islamic Extremism’s aggressions…Why Not Launch a Crusade?

October 19, 2017

By Alejandro Ezcurra Naón

Outrage is growing in western public opinion as news keeps coming in about the horrendous massacres perpetrated against Christians in Asia Minor and Africa by terrorists of the self-proclaimed“Islamic State” and their ilk. Many are beginning to wonder if one should call a new Crusade in defense of those peoples, victimized by an unprecedented war of extermination in the name of Allah.

Granted, the word “Crusade” brings a chill down the spine not only of liberals but also of Catholics bitten by the fly of progressivist relativism. Both have sought to stigmatize the notion of Crusade by associating it with abuse, greed, a desire for political domination, etc. Fortunately, however, they have failed.

While there were crusaders unworthy of the name, the image of the archetypical Crusader stands unscathed: the Christian knight whose idealism and virtues, proven over a thousand times, made him a unmatched paradigm in history of a perfectly accomplished model of a man of honor.

The saga of the Crusades was associated with the values ​​of chivalry to such degree that it endures to this day in the imagination of the West in a halo of well-deserved prestige. This is so much so that that the greatest compliment a man can receive on his moral qualities is, “so and so is a gentleman.”

The origin of the Crusades: defending oppressed Christians

Contrary to what we are led to believe, the Crusades were born to defend Christian populations in situations of weakness in the face of attack, abuse and harassment by Muslims (similar to those perpetrated by the “Islamic State” today).

In 1095, news of these abuses led Pope Urban II to convene the Council of Clermont, attended by 300 bishops and thousands of nobles. There, reports about the terrible plight of Christian pilgrims and inhabitants of the Holy Land, attacked and oppressed by Muslim powers, and the desecration of the holy places, led participants to cry “Deus vult!”  (“God wills it!”). A surge of courage and determination ran through the ranks of the knights present and quickly spread across France and Europe.

Thousands decided to take a vow of Crusade and leave for the Holy Land. Thus was born the first Crusade, which triumphantly culminated in 1099 with the conquest of Jerusalem, seized from Egypt by the legendary Godfrey of Bouillon and knights from France’s high nobility.

An epic saga driven and led by saints of the Church

Critics of the Crusades, eager to find defects, forget that the objective of that epic struggle was fully according to justice and that it was advocated and carried out by saints. The promoter of the First Crusade, Blessed Urban II, was a saint; so was the Mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to whom we owe the beautiful prayer of the Memorare.  He provided the Knights Templar with their rule, including the famous vow to never retreat in the battlefield. Also saints were the Crusader Kings, Saint Louis IX of France (who commanded not just one, but two Crusades) and his Spanish cousin, Saint Fernando III of Castile and Leon, who in a few years, with unstoppable momentum, recovered half of Spain, including Cordoba and Seville, from the Moors.

Saint John Capistrano, usually shown with the flag with which he encouraged Christian soldiers to fight in the Siege of Belgrade.

Also canonized was the heroic Franciscan monk Saint John Capistrano, called “the pious father,” who at the risk of his life encouraged the Crusaders on the battlefield and was decisively instrumental in the victory against the Turks at Belgrade (1456); so was Pope Saint Pius V, who organized the great naval crusade which definitively broke the naval power of the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto, in 1571; also a saint was Blessed Innocent XI, who called the Crusade against the Turks besieging Vienna (1683). He was helped in that undertaking by another Franciscan, Blessed Mark of Aviano, who helped organize the victorious Christian army which, outnumbered three to one (180,000 against 60,000), defeated the Turks and ended once and for all the Ottoman threat of land invasion into central Europe.

We could still cite many other saints with the crusading spirit, such as the charitable Saint Vincent of Paul, who was planning a Crusade to North Africa in order to stop pirates and kidnappers from the Maghreb, when death overtook him.

Saint Francis of Assisi defends the Crusades and urges the sultan to convert

Someone may object: “I do not understand John Capistrano and Mark of Aviano. How could such peaceful Franciscans become involved in a Crusade? Is this not in contradiction with their vocation as men of peace?”

The answer is: not at all! When Christendom is in danger, what could be more logical than to defend and support those who defend it? This is so much so that the same Saint Francis of Assisi set the example for his brethren: He accompanied the Fifth Crusade and courageously proclaimed its legitimacy before the sultan of Egypt himself!

Saint Francis before Sultan Malik al-Kamil. Fra Angelico ca. 1429, Lindenau Museum, Altenberg.

This bold and holy move took place in 1219, when Sultan Malik al-Kamil received Saint Francis in Damietta. His fellow traveler, Fray Illuminato, narrates the episode:

“The Sultan posed to him [Saint Francis] another question: “Your Lord teaches in the Gospels that you should not return evil for evil nor refuse your mantle to someone who wants to take your tunic. Therefore, you Christians should not invade our lands.”

“To which the Blessed Francis replied:

“I think you have not read the whole Gospel. Elsewhere, indeed, it is said: ‘If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.’ With that Jesus wanted to teach us that when a man has a relative, however beloved he must be, even if he was as dear as the apple of our eyes, if he tempted us to turn away from the faith and love of our God we should be resolved to separate, alienate and eradicate him from us. For all this, Christians act according to justice when they invade your lands and fight you, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and fight to take away from His religion as many as you can. However, if you want to know, confess and worship the Creator and Redeemer of the world, I will love you as myself.” All those present were taken with admiration by his response.[1]

The Saints are proposed by the Church as role models. When even Saint Francis of Assisi fully justifies, in the name of the Gospel, a Crusade against those who use violence to wrench souls from the faith of Jesus Christ, there is no reason in principle why Catholics should not imitate the Seraphic Father. This is what we are taught by the doctrine of the Church and by the example of her saints.

This being so, could God be asking Western Christian nations at this time to tackle Islamic extremism and prevent even greater evils to the world?



[1] “Fonti Francescane”, Third Section, Altre Testimonianze Francescane, N° 2691, accessed June 13, 2017,



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