“Remember this, you mis-creants – we shall be in Rome, we shall be in Rome, Inch’ Allah!” The threat is clear. It comes from an ISIS Jihadi in the Philippines. In a video released on August 25, a group of “soldiers of the Caliphate” filmed themselves desecrating the church in Marawi, a southern town where Jihadists and government forces have been fighting since the month of May.
As he speaks these words, the man shreds photographs of Benedict XVI and Francis. “After all their efforts, it will finally be the religion of the cross that will be broken,” a voice adds off camera. “The hostility of the Crusaders towards Muslims has only served to strengthen the young generation.”
“I saw, that video that was shown on TV: evidently, one cannot avoid worrying. Especially because of this senseless hatred that there is,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, speaking to reporters during a Catholic gathering in the Italian city of Rimini.
The prelate also said that, to his knowledge, no particular new security measures are in place in the Vatican as a direct result of that video, and the alarm level is the same as before. Threats by ISIS against the Vatican are nothing new. This video was just the latest example, but it shows that the specter of an attack against the Pope or of the “taking” of the Vatican City by its combatants is still quite real.
In fact, the use of the term “Crusaders” to designate Westerners is a regular reminder of the way the West and Christianity are used synonymously in the rhetoric of ISIS. The Pope thus becomes a prime symbolic target.
Evidence of this is to be found in Dabiq, the English-language propaganda magazine of ISIS, since October 2014. One of its first editions offers a front-page photo montage showing the flag of the Jihadi group flying over the obelisk on St Peter’s square with the title “The Failed Crusade.”