Friday, September 22, 2006

The Pope and Islam continued ...

Well, it is the story, and really focuses on one of the fault-lines of the 21st century.

Sandro Magister has a collection of articles in his newsletter, including a piece by himself: Why Benedict XVI did want to fall silent or backpedal. The reference to Islam was intentional and calculated, and probably was intentionally not screened by the Secretariat of State.
The masterful lecture that the pope-theologian delivered at the University of Regensburg really did send shivers throughout the world. Because what Benedict XVI said there is just what happened afterward. The pope explained the distance that runs between the Christian God, who is love, immolated in Jesus on the cross, but also “Logos,” reason; and the God worshipped by Islam, so transcendent and sublime that he is not bound by anything, not even by that rational assertion according to which there must not be “any coercion in matters of faith.” The Qur’an says this in the second sura, to which the pope conscientiously made reference, but it then makes other and opposite statements. And the violent eruption in the Muslim world against the pope and Christians confirms that this other tendency has the upper hand, giving form and substance to the way in which myriads of the faithful of Allah view the world of the infidels. The other side of pope Joseph Ratzinger’s lecture in Regensburg is the blood poured out in Muslim Mogadishu by sister Leonella Sgorbati, a woman veiled and yet free, a martyr whose last words were addressed to her killers: “I forgive you.”

In reality, almost the entirety of Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg was addressed to the Christian world, to the West and to Europe, which in his view are so sure of their naked reason – too sure – that they have lost the “fear of God.” But here as well the pope’s words found their confirmation in the facts. Hand in hand with the swell of verbal and physical violence on the part of Muslims, on the other side, in theory his own side, the pope was the target of incessant volleys of friendly fire. Just as the sagacious companions of Job attributed the blame for his misfortunes to him, so also Benedict XVI was surrounded by a veritable whirlwind of advice and rebuke of the same sort.
When it comes to Realpolitik, the Pope sees a broader picture:
But realism isn’t everything for Benedict XVI. The dialogue with Islam that he wants to create is not made of fearful silences and ceremonial embraces. It is not made of mortifications which, in the Muslim camp, are interpreted as acts of submission. The citation he made in Regensburg, from the “Dialogues with a Mohammedan” written at the end of the fourteenth century by the Christian participant in the dialogue, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, was deliberate choice. A war was on. Constantinople was under siege, and in a half century, in 1453, it would fall under the dominion of the Ottoman Empire. But the learned Christian emperor brought his Persian count to the terrain of truth, reason, law, and violence, to what marks the real difference between the Christian faith and Islam, to the key questions upon which war or peace between the two civilizations depends.

Pope Ratzinger sees modern times, too, as being fraught with war, and with holy war. But he asks Islam to place a limit of its own on “jihad.” He proposes to the Muslims that they separate violence from faith, as prescribed by the Qur’an itself, and that they again connect faith with reason, because “acting against reason is in contradiction with the nature of God.”
Then there is a piece by Pietro de Marco: "'The Axis of the Sacred' and interreligious criticism. Byzantium in Regensburg" looks at the analogy the Pope used, with the situation of the Emperor of Byzantium facing the Turkish armies at his doorstep. He starts by suggesting that the Pope wanted to build on the level of trust that the seemingly more conciliatory pontificate of John Paul II had achieved with the Islamic world. And then
Pope Benedict wants, then, to tell his Islamic listener today that Christianity and the West know that Islam is armed and, in part, at war; and that they will be able to respond to this, as has already happened, after and notwithstanding the fall of Constantinople. But the pope is pointing out in the first place to the faith and the doctrine of men and cultures that the terrain of the encounter of truth and for truth is different. It is that of the “Logos.” But Islam has also practiced the “Logos,” and at the service of faith, for centuries and everywhere, from Andalusia to Baghdad, from Cairo to Persia.
I think this part needs to be studied and understood carefully. Benedict was being intentional. And for him, dialogue is indeed a lot more than just simple platitudes and hand-holding, "let's all just get along." We should pay close attention to his words.

There's also a beautiful piece looking at the muder of Sr. Leonella, the nun murdered in Somalia.

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