Pope Francis’ ‘Soft Power’ Diplomacy Aims to Bring Islam Into the Modern World

The pope’s recent visit to Albania to emphasize the successful inter-religious coalition government there marked another important expression of the Holy See’s “soft power” diplomacy at work in the global confrontation of radical elements within Islam. He took this opportunity to highlight a situation in which Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics co-exist and govern peacefully in the birthplace of Mother Teresa.

In his speech at the presidential palace, Pope Francis remarked on the “peaceful coexistence and collaboration” and “climate of mutual respect” among different religious groups in Albania, formerly one of the harshest communist regimes. This stands in stark contrast to what is taking place in Iraq and Syria right now. There, he said, religion is being used as a “shield” to support “violence and repression.”

These words bring to mind Pope Benedict’s address at Regensburg in September 2006, whereupon he delivered the most clear and striking critique of radicalized Islam and the use of religion as an excuse for violence and mayhem. Pope Francis is in some ways picking up where Pope Benedict left off, drawing the Holy See directly into the global search for solutions to radicalized Islam and religiously inspired terrorism. He is using the “soft power” voice of the Holy See and its moral authority in the world to leverage and support the efforts of other like-minded nations around the globe…