What the Pope should have mentioned instead of stating "regret"

Predecessors of Ratzinger in the Vatican had to oversee actual battle against hosts of Islam. Coastal Italy was subject to repeated Arab maritime depredation between 652 and 1087. In 846, an Arab force of 11,000 men borne on 73 ships entered Rome through the mouths of Tyber. They freely plundered the suburbs of Rome and despoiled the basilica of St. Peter and Cathedral of St. Paul before nonchalantly returning to their ships. When Pope Leo IV came to office in 847, he dedicated himself to fortification of Rome. The entire Vatican area, where St. Peter's basilica stood, was walled to form Civitas Leonina or the "Leonine City".

Corsica and other places in Tuscan coasts were also fortified under Pope's direction. But the Arabs caught with the Romans in 849, before the fortifications could be completed. But as the Arab fleet launched from the island of Sardinia approached Rome, the allied fleet of Gaeta, Amalfi and Naples, led by Caesarius of Naples, came forward to Rome's defence. Blessed by Leo IV, it gave a decisive battle to the Arab fleet. Storm kept a date with Arab fleet, and the aggressors were routed. Many Muslim survivors were mercilessly hanged, while others were pressed into slavery to build the incomplete walls and towers.

Yet Rome was so endangered by Arab pirates that Pope John VIII (872-882) had to pay the Arabs an yearly bribe of 25,000 mancusi! .The abbey of San Vincezo and the great monastery of Monte Cassino were burnt and destroyed in 883-884, as were they abbeys of Farfa and Subiaco in 890. Arab bases materialized, dangerously close to Rome, at Ciciliano and Saracinceso on river Garigliano, from where they indulged in wanton plundering. It took an impressive and heroic Pope John X (reigned 914 - 928) to rally the Byzantines, Lombards, Gaeta, Capua, Salerno, Beneventum, and other Italian states against the Arab aggression. Pope John X was himself present on the battle field when his alliance, in August 916 CE, routed the Arabs beside Garigliano River.

But Arabs, emanating from their bases in Sicily and Barbary (North African) Coast, continued to harass southern Italy past 916. They took Reggio in 918; overran Calabria; and sold many of its captured inhabitants into slavery in Sicily and North Africa. Their piratical activities were a constant bugbear to the Christian maritime commerce on the Mediterranean, and they extorted ransom from coastal cities of Italy.

Finally, Genoa and Pisa decided to take the bull by its horns. In 1015 and 1016 CE, allied Genoese and Pisan fleets, blessed by Pope Benedict VIII, raided the Tyrrhenian base of Arabs in Sardinia. The Arab resistance literally collapsed in the face of this Italian resurgence, and Pisa occupied Sardinia. In 1034 CE, they took the offensive to Bona, the Arab base on Barbary Coast. The booty captured in the campaign was given away to monastery of Cluny, from which Moors had extorted enormous ransom in 972 CE after captivating its revered Abbot St. Maiolus.

In 1062 or 1063, Pisan made a daring raid upon Palermo, in Arab Sicily, and extorted a booty, whose one sixth went to making of Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1087, Pope Victor III inspired a coalition of Italian cities Pisa, Genoa, Rome, Amalfi to raid Mahdia, a dreaded piratical base on Barbary Coast with 30,000 men borne on more than three hundred ships. It was an immensely successful attack and the Arab prince Tamim doled out huge tributes in gold dinars, and granted Pisan and Genoese merchants free access to his territory. He released all Christian captives and promised to stop piratical raids. Their victory was attained on the feast day of St. Sixtus (August 6) and Pisans and Genoese constructed Churches dedicated to that Saint with tributes extracted from Mahida. Pisa and Genoa, had swept clean the western Mediterranean of Arab scourge, on the eve of the First Crusades

A resurgent scourge of Barbary Pirates between 16th and 19th centuries held Europe into ransom. In 1571, Pope Pius V Michele Ghisleri played a seminal role cutting down the western expanse of Islam. He inspired the `Holy League' of Christian states that under the command of Don Juan defeated the Turks in sea battle of Lepanto on Sunday October 7, 1571. Coincidentally, it was on Sunday October 7, 2001 the President George Bush launched the US-led coalition attack on Afghanistan. Miguel Cervantes, the author of famous `Adventures of Don Quixote', world's first novel, was disabled in his one arm fighting the battle of Lepanto.

But four years later Miguel and his brother Rodrigo, while returning in from Italy to Spain in galley El Sol, in September, 1575, were captured by Barbary Pirates. Miguel Cervantes spent the following his four years as a slave of Arraez Ali Mami in Algiers until he was ransomed back by the monks of Trinitarian order. There were tens of thousands of Christian/European slaves in Algiers (also in Tunis, Tripoli, Sale etc) and most of them were not so lucky.

Pope Ratzinger, instead of apologizing to Muslims for his anecdote on Manuel III Paleologues, should have reminded them of these indelible facts of history. And these are only fractions of the whole story of Islamic torture of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism etc.



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