Genghis Khan and the Pope's summer of madness
Earlier this week, the Rome correspondent of the Times found himself mugging up on the history of Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire, and this is what he reported:
While the empire brought stability, it was created through the large-scale massacre of anyone who refused to submit to Mongol rule, leading to the death of millions. Mongol troops triggered famine in Iran by destroying ancient irrigation systems and catapulted diseased corpses into towns they besieged, a technique which reportedly introduced the Black Death into Europe.Why were the media suddenly writing about blood-crazed 13th-century warriors? Because, incredibly, Pope Francis – on a strange visit to Mongolia's minuscule Catholic community – had just been rhapsodising about the enlightened tolerance of Khan's Empire, without mentioning that its conquests came at the price of 40 million lives. Judged as a proportion of the global population at the time, that's the biggest slaughter in human history.
This came just days after Francis, talking to young Russian Catholics by video link, told them to glory in Russia's imperial past, singling out the figures of Peter the Great and the Empress Catherine II, both of whom were committed to the destruction of the Ukrainian nation and culture. This is the same pope who nurtures delusions of acting as a peacemaker between Moscow and Kyiv. Good luck with that, your Holiness. Ukrainian Catholics feel utterly betrayed by Francis. Putin, on the other hand, was thrilled by the unhinged papal comments.
And there's more. In his flight to Mongolia, Pope Francis was allowed to use Chinese air space. Not coincidentally, he has recently surrendered the appointment of official Chinese Catholic Bishops to the Communist Party. Naturally he thanked Beijing effusively and, after Mass in Ulan Bator, departed from his script to send 'a warm greeting to the noble Chinese people' and urged them to be 'good citizens'.
In this episode of Holy Smoke, I try to make sense of these unnerving developments. Why does the Pope feel so warmly towards dictators past and present – and why is he relentless in sniping at American Catholics who have never crushed anyone under their imperial heels?