September 16, 2006



Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy Father's address at the University of Regensburg, and the clarifications and explanations already presented through the Director of the Holy See Press Office, I would like to add the following:

- The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: "The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting" (no. 3).

- The Pope's option in favor of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on 20 August 2005, he said that such dialogue between Christians and Muslims "cannot be reduced to an optional extra," adding: "The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity".

- As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come. On this point, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in his commemorative Message for the 20th anniversary of the Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, initiated by his predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: " ... demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time. ... In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions".

- The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions. Indeed it was he who, before the religious fervor of Muslim believers, warned secularized Western culture to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom".

- In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, he hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the "Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men" may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify "to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom" (Nostra Aetate no. 3).

At a time when Christendom is Reforming the Islamic world at the point of a sword, it's obviously silly to link Islam to violent conversion but absolve Christianity. But it's unimaginable that the Pope was being malicious. So you apologize for the statement and you begin the argument afresh. No harm, no foul.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2006 11:37 AM

Christendom? How delightfully anachronistic.

I also hadn't heard the news that we were converting them.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 16, 2006 11:52 AM

Based on their success stretching the Danish cartoon affront out as long as possible, I doubt the more fervent types will accept this as an apology, and I'm sure the usual suspects like the New York Times (which has already excommunicated Benedict on today's editorial page) will do their darndest not only to play up those who want to keep the cotroversy alive, but will be scouring dioceses everywhere for church officials who think the Pope hasn't done enough to clarify his statement and should issue a direct apology.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2006 12:12 PM

The cartoon kerfuffle lasted a week. So will this.

Posted by: oj at September 16, 2006 1:13 PM

So the Pope quotes someone who portrays Islam of 700 years ago as a violent religion, and Islam today responds with. . . violence? What's to argue here?

Posted by: obc at September 16, 2006 1:49 PM

He wasn't wrong about Islam, but about Christianity. We're crusading there--they aren't jihading here.

Posted by: oj at September 16, 2006 1:55 PM

We're not forcibly converting anybody.

He's right: Despite all the abuses, there is an inherent Christian concept of church and state occupying distinct realms. It's much harder to say that about Islam, although obviously there are examples of this is the Muslim world as well.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 16, 2006 3:09 PM

We're overthrowing their regimes and dictating the terms of their new orders according to our standards.

It's not that we aren't holy warriors, but that our cause is just.

Posted by: oj at September 16, 2006 3:30 PM

The cartoons were a five-month old seemingly dead issue until a few of the more radical clerics in Europe and the Middle East dredged it up again simply to stoke the flames of victimization.

Odds are they'll try to go to the well with this one at least a couple of times more after the initial one-week imbroglio dies down. That might work for a while, given the guilt-ridden folks who head so many of the big media outlets, but playing the victim card based on race and/or religion only works for so long (see Jackson, Jesse), before all but the most gullible folks you're trying to shame tune you out. Hopefully, the people they're trying to stir up will tune them out at roughly the same time.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2006 7:56 PM

Yes, and when they became an issue they lasted a week. This is a bigger deal because it was the pope, not some clown, but it'll be short-lived.

Posted by: oj at September 16, 2006 8:11 PM

Unless some whackadoo tries to kill him in Turkey....

The Pope's going into the Lion of Islam den.

Posted by: Sandy P at September 16, 2006 8:42 PM

It's a stretch to say that Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar were (good) Muslims.

If the Islamic world wants to rally around their cause for religious reasons, then they have much bigger problems than going gonzo over some cartoons.

The Pope's apology is fine, but obc's comment above is on point.

It seems that a fair percentage of the screamers (notice how they are concentrated in Iran and Pakistan) are spring-loaded to react at everything, like a boil ready to be lanced.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 16, 2006 9:18 PM

If "clean up your act or we'll be forced to clean it up for you" is "forced conversion", then I'm all for it.

And that what this "Muslim Rage" is, an act.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 16, 2006 9:53 PM

Jas 2:19 Thou believest that God is one; thou dost well. The devils believe
also, and tremble.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 17, 2006 1:27 AM