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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-ISIS group released a chilling poster depicting a masked jihadist with a "beheaded" Pope Francis. It comes only days after jihadist supporters vowed to launch a Christmas attack on the Vatican.
In the photo, a jihadist is shown standing over the orange-jumpsuited body of a prisoner, clutching the decapitated head of Pope Francis. The terrorist is dressed in khaki with a white scarf over his face and a knife in one hand, while the background shows several damaged buildings. Next to the severed head is the pope's name, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Posters do not usually warn of an imminent threat, but nevertheless are a call to action for lone wolf attackers who may be waiting to strike. Analysts warned previously of an increase in ISIS attacks worldwide following the collapse of the Caliphate in the Middle East. Terrorists use such attacks to arouse fear and leave a mark, particularly when it seems their power is diminishing.
SITE Intelligence Group Director Rita Katz commented to Newsweek on Monday:
It's not surprising to see threats like this against Pope Francis and Christianity, especially during the holiday season. ISIS and its supporters know how to play the media game, and often time the releases of their threats to get the highest amount of attention as possible.
Pope Francis met in September with Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League (MWL), a group linked to financing jihad terror. During the meeting, Al-Issa thanked the Pope for his "fair positions" on what he called the "false claims that link extremism and violence to Islam."
This is not the first time a Muslim leader has thanked the Pope. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo's al-Azhar, thanked Francis for his "defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism."
This peaceful Catholic-Muslim exchange came after a five-year lull, when Cairo-based Al-Azhar discontinued talks after comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 regarding a jihad terrorist who murdered 23 Christians in a church in Alexandria, Egypt. Benedict denounced "terrorism" and the "strategy of violence" against Christians, urging for the protection of Christians in the Middle East.
In September 2013, Al-Azhar annnounced that Pope Francis declared his respect for Islam and his desire to achieve "mutual understanding between the world's Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice."But Al-Tayeb has proven himself to be anything but a preacher of peace, cooperation and mercy, condoning anti-Semitism on Qur'anic ground and arguing for Islamic state murderers of the Jordanian pilot to be crucified and have their hands and feed amputated.
Pope Francis is considered the most "pro-Islamic, subdued Pope in modern history," with evidence that consent and compromise to Islam is seen as a weakness, allowing for more demands, conquest and attacks in the name of Islam.
On October 31, Sayfullo Saipov drove a rented semi-truck down a bike path in New York City, killing eight and wounding dozens.
Christmas has shown to be a popular time for ISIS attacks in the past; Anis Amri drove a truck into a Berlin festival market on December 15, 2016, and Rizwan Farook terrorized a work Christmas party in San Bernardino, California before going on a rampage with his wife Tashfeen Malik in 2015.