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News from 1096 AD: Pope discusses military force against Middle Eastern caliphate

Pope Francis in South Korea
Pope Francis in South Korea
Pool

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In a bit of news that might make you wonder what millenia you're in, Pope Francis, normally quite a peacenik, has endorsed the use of military force against Islamic State (ISIS), the terrorist group and self-declared caliphate that has seized large chunks of Syria and Iraq and is terrorizing civilians, especially Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities.

There is good precedent for this. During the Middle Ages, between 1096 and 1272 AD, popes also endorsed the use of Western military action to destroy Middle Eastern caliphates. Those were known as the crusades; there were nine, which means that this would be number 10. The historical record suggests, though, that prior crusades were usually not endorsed from the comfort of jet-propelled airplanes, nor were they announced via Twitter.

Update: Now that the full transcript of Francis's interview is out, it turns out that there's a great deal more nuance to what he said — and he did not actually call for war. Read Brandon Ambrosino's fascinating piece on what Francis actually said, what he meant, and how it fits into Catholic doctrine on war and peace.