Missions to Moslems in North Africa and Western Asia

The Latin Catholics were not content with seeking to convert the Moslems in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily or with turning the flank of the Moslem advance by taking advantage of the Mongol conquests to carry their faith into Russia, Central Asia, India, and the Far East. They also sought to win Moslems in those areas in North Africa and Western Asia which had been torn from Christendom by Islam and to bring into unity with Rome the Christian communities in these regions, chiefly in Western Asia, which had survived the Arab conquests. Much of this was in connexion with the Crusades. Most of the active missions were by Franciscans and Dominicans.

However, one of the most far-ranging in his dreams for missions, including the conversion of the Moslems, Raymond Lull, was disliked by the Dominicans and only late in life connected himself with the Franciscans. Born about 1232 on the island of Majorca, Raymond Lull was reared in aristocratic circles and until he had passed his first youth his was the life of a dissolute courtier. Then, converted by recurring visions of Christ on the cross, he made provision for his wife and family, gave the rest of his property to the poor, and devoted himself to religion. He wrote prodigiously. A mystic, some of his works were in that field. His chief concern was to see all men won to the Christian faith. He urged that the Mongols be reached before they accepted Islam or Judaism. He travelled extensively, pressing upon Popes and cardinals the founding of monasteries for the preparation of missionaries. He devised a system of presenting the Christian faith to non-

Christians and lectured on it in some of the main centres of theological learning. It was on the Moslems that he concentrated most of his missionary zeal. He made three missionary Journeys to North Africa. On the first two he was arrested and deported and on the third, in 1315 or 1316, when he was probably past eighty years of age, he was stoned so severely that he died.

Between them the Franciscans and Dominicans covered most of the Moslem world. In this they were supported by Papal letters to Moslem princes.

Both orders were in North Africa, seeking to serve the Christian sailors, merchants, and captives in that area and to revive the Christian cause which once had had a chief stronghold there but under the Moslem rule had all but disappeared. Bishoprics were created. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries two other orders were formed to ransom or otherwise rescue the Christians who had been carried captive to that region.

Franciscans and Dominicans were widely scattered in Western Asia. Many were in cities which had been captured by the Crusaders. Others went beyond these centres. Their chief numerical successes were among the churches which were not in communion with Rome. One entire group, the Maronites, was drawn permanently into the Roman fold. From the others only minorities were gathered. Usually these became Uniates, that is, they were permitted to retain their ancient rites, customs, and languages, but brought their creeds into conformity with those of Rome and acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope.

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