May 14, 2007


Shiite cleric in Iraq gains sway across border (Anne Barnard, 5/14/07, The Boston Globe)

Iran's ruling clerics have long prided themselves on running the world's only Shiite Muslim state -- a state that imposes religion, dictating what imams can preach, what the media can report, and what people can wear.

So some Iranians are intrigued by the more freewheeling experiment in Shiite empowerment taking place across the border in Iraq, where -- Iraq's myriad problems aside -- imams can say whatever they want in political Friday sermons, newspapers and satellite channels regularly slam the government, and religious observance is respected and encouraged but not required.

In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric -- rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.

Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shiite leaders should stay out of government, and Sistani has stuck to it despite the great temptation to wade into the chaos of Iraqi politics.

The interesting this is how Ayatollah Sistani resembles Pope Benedict on this point, recognizing the necessity for the Islamic World and Europe to succumb to Anglo-American Reformation.

From Brazil Resounds a Word Sharper than a Sword: A word that is a person: Jesus. The same person to whom Benedict XVI has dedicated the book of a lifetime. For the pope, the future of the Church in Latin American and in the world is bound up with obedience to Him. And he felt the need to remind the bishops of this (Sandro Magister, May 15, 2007, Chisa)

Among the twelve speeches, homilies, messages, and greetings pronounced by Benedict XVI during his four-day trip to Brazil, the one most keenly awaited was the inaugural address for the fifth conference of the bishops' conference of Latin American and the Caribbean, in Aparecida.

But the discourse that will be remembered in the future as the one most revealing of the pope's objectives was another. It was the one he delivered to the bishops of Brazil in the cathedral of Sao Paolo, at the end of Vespers on Friday, May 11.

It is the address reproduced further below.

The pope begins it with words "sharper than a sword": the words of the New Testament on perfect obedience to the Father of Jesus, the savior of all precisely because he was obedient in everything, even to the cross. The bishops, he asserts, are simply "bound" to this obedience: their mission is that of preaching the truth, baptizing, "saving souls one by one" in the name of Jesus.

"This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church," Benedict XVI emphasizes. Therefore, where the truth of the Christian faith is hidden, and where the sacraments are not celebrated, "the essential is also lacking for the solution of urgent social and political problems."

All of the instructions that the pope gave to the Brazilian bishops following the address descend from this foundation. Benedict XVI's clear intention is that of reestablishing Jesus, true God and true man, as the center of the Latin American Church: a Church that, in his judgment, has in recent decades strayed too far into political territory, under the influence of liberation theology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2007 1:11 PM
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