The truth appears to be coming out on the failures of the U.S. State Department in regard to the attack on America’s diplomatic mission in Benghazi. In light of this, I thought you might like to have some information on the Catholic Church in Libya and a timeline of (mostly) Vatican news articles on Libya. Regardless of anything else, it is clear to me that Barack Obama should not have sought to depose Qaddafi to begin with…and regardless of what is decided in regard to the attack on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya has fallen to forces far more evil than Qaddafi was. Let’s not forget that. I have no opinion on the current president of Libya, but those who toppled Qaddafi have no concern for human life except among those who are Muslims. Most seem to be more interested in money and power than in “freedom.” This “revolution” has nothing to do with freedom whatsoever. There is no freedom where there is war against Christendom.
Background on Christianity in Libya
Click here for some fascinating details about the history of the Church in Libya from the very beginning of Christianity.
Here are some excerpts:
The beginnings of the Church in Libya go back to the origins of Christianity itself. One recalls Simon of Cyrene who helped Christ carry the cross (Mk 15, 21). On the day of Pentecost, there were in Jerusalem, some devout men coming from Libya, belonging to Cyrene (Ac 2,10). After the persecution of Jerusalem, it was some citizens from Cyprus and Cyrene who carried the Good News of Jesus to the Greeks (Ac 11,20). According to the tradition of the Coptic Church in Egypt, St. Mark would be originally from Cyrene.
The rapid conquests of the arab-muslims, between the 7th and 12th centuries, gradually obliterated christianity from North Africa. The ecclesiatical history of North Africa under the Arab domination during these centuries is obscure and so scant as to make it extremely difficult even to delineate.
In 1219 while St Francis departed to Egypt, his followers in 1224-25 went to Morocco where they were martyred. They were present although occasionally in Tunisia and from1628 permanently also in Libya to assist the Christian slaves. The Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels) in the Old City – Medina of Tripoli was foundedin1645 and, with the permission of the Sultan of Constantinople, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Benghazi in 1858. From 1641 the first Apostolic Prefecture was actually constituted with the series of Apostolic Prefects up to 1943 when the Apostolic Vicariate of Tripoli was constituted and from 1927 that of Benghazi.
Timeline of Vatican articles on Libya.
It is important to note for non-Catholics who, in my experience, are frequently unaware of this point, that news reports from the Vatican are not doctrinal statements. We Catholics don’t have to agree with statements made here, generally speaking, but it is wise to trust that these statements are being accurately reported. I offer here my own summaries. Click the links for the original articles.
May 13, 2011, Fides reports:
“Today is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. May she help us free ourselves from the ‘plague’ of bombs and all sorts of violence. Blessed John Paul II suffered violence and Our Lady of Fatima saved him. As Pastor I invoke the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima and St. Francis so our leaders may convince themselves to take the path of negotiation and peace, ” Archbishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli says to Fides. Archbishop Martinelli also states that “the prayer to Our Lady of Fatima is important because it is also known by the Muslim world” The Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli declares, however, disappointed: “As far as I know, there is no attempt to dialogue. This worries me, because we want to solve everything with force. But force never brings positive results.” “Last night bombings were less intense than the two previous nights. The problem is that bombings provoke civil victims. The radio transmits appeals from mothers and children who asked not to be bombed, ” concludes Bishop Martinelli.
May 16, 2011, Pope Benedict calls for an end to the violence in Libya.
After praying the Regina Coeli, the Holy Father remarked that he continued “to follow with great apprehension the dramatic armed conflict in Libya, which has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civil population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of the international organisations that are seeking a solution to the crisis. I assure, furthermore, my prayerful and heartfelt participation in the local Church’s undertaking to help the population, in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals”.
May 26, 2011, a Catholic priest who helps refugees says European countries, USA, Canada, Australia must increase their quotas for refugees attempting to leave Libya. “We need to accelerate reception procedures.” A refugee camp is “assaulted from Libya.”
June 2, 2011, Vatican Radio reported that the UN-backed NATO campaign’s mission in Libya was to protect civilians during the rebellion to oust Qaddafi. It is reported that both sides, rebels and Qaddafi forces, have committed “war crimes” but that the Qaddafi forces’ war crimes are “more severe.”
June 4, 2011, Bishop Martinelli says, “We were astonished by the failure of international diplomacy and, perhaps, by its prejudice that makes dialogue impossible with the leadership of Tripoli,” and he warns, “Wanting to divide Libya means to create breeding ground for terrorist acts.”
June 6, 2011, Bishop Martinelli says that an Italian cemetery has been desecrated.
On June 3, unknown assailants attacked the Italian cemetery in Tripoli, causing extensive damage without being able to penetrate into the rooms where the ossuaries are. On the walls there were writings against NATO and the allied bombings in progress on Libya, as well as insulting and threatening messages.
June 14, 2011, Fides reports on a statement from Bishop Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, in Libya: “Speaking to some journalists one has the impression that Italy does not talk much of the war in Libya, an event that has become uninteresting. On many other occasions events are organized, for the war in Libya, no. I therefore believe that the war in Libya has been put in the background on behalf of NATO countries, although they still continue the bombings.”
June 24, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli is saddened by a NATO strike on a family home.
According to radio Libyan there are 19 victims, mostly women”, says the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, who concludes confiding: “I am more and more bitter because you cannot see the will to find a peaceful solution to the crisis”.
June 22, 2011, Vatican Radio reports that China is beginning to establish ties with Libyan rebels and that Italy’s foreign minister wants hostilities to end so that aid can start pouring into Libya.
June 27, 2011, Vatican Radio reports that the rebels are coming to Tripoli. “Gaddafi’s government remains defiant,” the report says. Libyans are arriving in Tripoli by ship from Benghazi while the Red Cross is transporting people by ferry from Tripoli to Benghazi.
June 29, 2011, the ICC wants Qaddafi’s government to hand Qaddafi over for trial, but NATO “does not have any mandate to carry out an arrest of Gadhafi.”
July 4, 2011, Fides reports, and Bishop Martinelli expresses that the people support Qaddafi. He is praying for reconciliation.
August 7, 2011: Pope Benedict says:
My thoughts also turn to Libya, where the force of arms has not resolved the situation. I urge international organizations and all who have political and military responsibilities to relaunch with conviction, through effective negotiation and constructive dialogue, the search for a plan for peace for the country.
August 9, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli is praying that Qaddafi and the people of Libya are reconciled.
August 30, 2011, Vatican Radio reports “Libya faces distressing humanitarian situation” as “Libya’s rebels accused Algeria of an act of aggression for admitting the fleeing wife of Muammar Gaddafi and three of his children.”
August 31, 2011, Bishop Martinelli hopes for reconciliation between Qaddafi and the Libyan people. He expresses that reconciliation is what the people of Libya want.
September 13, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli believes the new government will be “moderate” and he says that he is “eager and anxious to return to Libya” after a stay in Italy.
September 16, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli believes that Libya has changed for the better, saying, “For the moment I can only speak for Tripoli, because I do not know what is happening in the rest of the country, but my first impression is positive: there is an atmosphere of tranquility and peace.”
September 20, 2011, Bishop Martinelli says, “We are ready to cooperate with the authorities for the sake of Libya.”
September 24, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli is inviting the Apostolic Nuncio, who lives in Malta, to come to Libya.
October 3, 2011, the situation in Qaddafi’s hometown is “desperate,” according to the International Red Cross.
October 21, 2011, the Holy See Press Office issues a statement on the death of Qaddafi and reminds the world that the Vatican “recognises States and not governments.” Further, the Vatican states, “For this reason the Holy See has not proceeded in establishing a formal recognition of the National Transitional Council (CNT) as the government of Libya. Given that the CNT is now acting effectively as the government in Tripoli, the Holy See considers it the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, in conformity with international law.”
October 22, 2011, L’Osservatore Romano reports that the death of Qaddafi is “probably, the end of the war, to the point that NATO is considering announcing the end of the mission.”
October 27, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli says, “Libya has a tradition of being a balanced country, religious, and that has never been fundamentalist.” Bishop Martinelli then goes on to say that he believes Sharia law as a basis for Libya’s constitution (which is a fundamentalist view) is a “positive” thing.
December 17, 2011, the ICG says 125,000 Libyans are armed and are fighting in militias.
December 22, 2011, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli says, “the local population is serene.”
January 8, 2012, “Bombs, kidnappings and assaults in prisons: security in Benghazi, the capital of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) still seems precarious after about 9 months since the end of the civil war and the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.”
January 24, 2012, Fides reports “Explosions and gun shots near the Mahary Hotel” and “since Friday 20 there are shootings in Tripoli every night.”
May 9, 2012, We are told that many militia members were promised to be paid to fight against Qaddafi and they are now angry they are not getting the money.
“It was not the militants of Yafran to attack the seat of government, but those of Zeltan” say to Fides qualified sources from Tripoli, in Libya, where yesterday, May 8, a militia group attacked the headquarters of the Libyan government asking for the payment of fees owed to them for having fought for eight months against Muammar Qaddafi and his regime. The 200 militants had arrived on board of about 50 vehicles equipped with weapons of different calibers, including some anti-aircraft guns: they surrounded the seat of government, blocked all the surrounding roads and after firing the first gusts of intimidation and attempted to unnecessarily start a negotiation, they raided the building.
March 23, 2012, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli says everything is fine. “Come to Libya to help us, the situation is not as tragic as some describe it to be.”
June 5, 2012, Fides reports that Bishop Martinelli says, “The situation is calm again. When we left this morning at 7 am after Mass, we did not notice anything special” after a conflict over control of a civilian airport. Bishop Martinelli echoes Pope Benedict XVI in calling for “courage” among the Christians of Libya.
June 12, 2012, Vatican Radio reports that an ICC legal team has detained after having attempted to assure a fair trial for Qaddafi’s captured son, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi. The report mentions that the British ambassador to Libya was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.
June 13, 2012, Fides reports on bombs, blood…and Bishop Martinelli saying, “everything seems normal, shops are open…”
July 8, 2012, a Vatican news report that has since been removed from the website quotes Bishop Martinelli: “We must not be surprised if there are problems, but we trust the Libyans.”
July 10, 2012, Vatican Radio quotes Ian Martin, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, who gives a hopeful report about the elections in Libya.
August 10, 2012, Fides reports generally on the election of Mohamed al-Magariaf as President of the National Assembly in Libya.
September 12, 2012, Vatican Radio reports on the US condemnation of the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens. The article promotes the statement of the Council on American-Islamic Relations which makes the same false claim about an “offensive video” that was made by the White House.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Hooper, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the mob which have attacked the consulate are just giving more publicity to the person they feel insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
“It’s not Muslims in general”, he said. “It’s a tiny minority of Muslims who are reacting in the wrong way to intentional provocation.”
September 12, 2012, the Holy See Press Office releases a statement from Fr. Lombardi on peaceful co-existence among people of different religions.
September 13, 2012, Vatican Radio – Vatican: Firm condemnation of US consulate attack in Libya.
September 13, 2012, an unfortunate article from L’Osservatore Romano blaming the video and stating: The United States ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, an official and two marines were killed yesterday night when the American consulate in Bengasi was attacked. According to the international press the ambassador and the other three Americans were killed by a rocket fired at their car. The Libyan authorities state that the victims died inside the consulate.”
Fr. Lombardi pitches the side of Islamists and the White House in strong condemnation of the video, blaming it for the attack, arguably more so than the people who actually did the attacking.
“The serious consequences of unjustified offence and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers”, he stated, “are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in their turn nourish tension and hatred”.
September 14, 2012, an unfortunate article blaming the video for the attack and saying arrests have been made by Libyan authorities. The report relies on information from BBC reporter Nathan Morley.
September 22, 2012, another unfortunate article blaming the video and mentioning both “protestors” and “militias.”
December 17, 2012, the borders with four other countries are closed as southern Libya is declared a “closed military zone” by the Libyan General National Congress.
January 25, 2013, Fides reports “Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia have urged their citizens to leave Benghazi immediately for fear of imminent terrorist attacks”
January 31, 2013, Spero News reports that Christians are fleeing Libya due to threats from Islamists. The article quotes Bishop Martinelli.
January 31, 2013, Fides reports that the Congregation of the Holy Family of Spoleto and the Franciscan Sisters of the Child Jesus are driven out of Cyrenaica by Islamists.
February 11, 2013, Middle East Online (not a Catholic source) reports:
“Not a day goes by without tombs being vandalised,” says Dalmasso Bruno, caretaker of the Italian cemetery in the Libyan capital where Christians fear rising Muslim extremism.
“Human bones have been taken out of their tomb and scattered across the cemetery” in central Tripoli, he said. “The Libyan authorities came and took pictures. They promised to take measures but nothing has been done.”
Since the 2011 fall of Moamer Gathafi’s regime, the small Christian community’s fears for its safety have increased, especially after a church bombing in December killed two people in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya.
March 15, 2013, the Coptic Church in Benghazi is set on fire by “unknown assailants.” The Copts were reportedly being punished for “proselytizing.” Fr. Lombardi calls for “dialogue” and “shared and peaceful coexistence among religions and peoples”.
April 24, 2013, a car bomb explodes at the French embassy in Tripoli, and two nuns, Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, are killed in a car crash near Tripoli.
God help Libya.