According to German, Nazi-era thinker Carl Schmitt, the function of the Catholic church and the papacy is to slow down the arrival of the Antichrist and the end of days. On his visit to Poland from July 27 to 31, Pope Francis made it clear that he is trying to keep a third World War from emerging -- in the shape of a war between religions. Among his remarks, he said that the characterization of Islam as violent is misguided.
Despite repeated attempts to get the pope to create an armed church -- by those who do not dare to demand a response to the terrorist phenomenon from politicians -- Francis is not alone in rejecting the military-theology option.
Paradoxically, the few churchmen and the even fewer columnists who attempt to blackmail the church with the idea of an armed papacy are the same ones who chastise Francis for not following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II.
But it's clear that Francis's refusal to enter the church and the gospel in a "clash of civilizations 2.0" follows in the path set by John Paul II. (The current cultural and religious war is considerably different from the clash of civilizations predicted roughly 20 years ago by the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington.)
It's also clear that he's carrying out the church's commitment to peace. It was almost a century ago, on August 1, 1917, when Pope Benedict XV described war as "useless massacre."
Anyone who asks Pope Francis to issue a theological sanction on Islam, in the form of a declaration of a war of religions, is making a desperate attempt to simplify the landscape we're all facing.
Francis is a profoundly anti-ideological pope who has learned a great deal from the clash between the church and political ideologies. He has experienced the full complexity and paradoxes inherent to life as a Catholic in a democratic, pluralistic society.
In 1989, John Paul II was celebrated as the undisputed victor of the battle between ideologies; for Jorge Mario Bergoglio, it was far more difficult to extricate himself from the historical and theological conflict between church and state in Argentina.
The battle is even harder for Francis as the bishop of Rome. He faces neo-liberal secularists who are enamored by the idea of a war between religions, narcissists who see in the assassins of Rouen what they believe to be the true version of Islam, and whom they want the church to fight in their stead.
But the pope is also dealing with those who are expecting him to condemn Islam at large. They expect him to make a theological judgment on the basis of such crazy factions who do not comply with any of the doctrinal, spiritual, social or political expressions of global Islam.
There are currently many issues and questions surrounding the geopolitical and cultural stance of Catholicism, including: The return of nationalism and the risks facing democracy in the West; the issue of the domination of a technocratic paradigm that brings about social inequality, the biopolitical question (which certainly hasn't disappeared from the horizon -- just ask any Western countries in which euthanasia has become an increasingly common practice); and the issue of global terrorism, which has marked our lives over the past 15, and for which no short term solutions can be seen.
With his words, Francis keeps the church, and the entire Western world, safe from the abyss that would open up in the event of a theological retaliation on global Islam.
Overall, redefinition of ideological and religious alignments can be seen clearly in the United States, where the white nationalism of Donald Trump's Republican party has momentarily overshadowed -- but has not entirely eliminated -- the pro-life and pro-choice issues surrounding abortion, marking a major shift compared to the last 40 years of U.S. politics.
Anyone who asks Pope Francis to issue a theological sanction on Islam, in the form of a declaration of a war of religions, is making a desperate attempt to simplify the landscape we're all facing. They are under the mistaken impression that the issue is purely theological, or better yet, heresy-ological. It is as if a theological condemnation of Islam would be enough to resolve the massive, complex puzzle of issues that the whole world is grappling with today.
The genius of Catholicism, and the Roman papacy in particular, is the ability to scrutinize the "signs of the time," to avoid the temptation to take shortcuts. The papal magisterium witnessed this with the 1963 Pacem in Terris encyclical, the spiritual testament of John XXIII, and with the inter-religious encounters in Assisi organized by John Paul II (as a way to combat skepticism and opposition coming in from almost all sides) in 1986, 15 years before the events of September 11, 2001.
On his way back from Poland, Pope Francis said that it is wrong to equate violence and terrorism with Islam. With his words, Francis keeps the church, and the entire Western world, safe from the abyss that would open up in the event of a theological retaliation on global Islam -- which remains to be the primary victim of terrorism worldwide.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.