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Topic initiated on Saturday, September 16, 2006  -  1:55 PM Reply with quote

'The Dialogue Of Cultures'?

The Pope causes a stir by quoting a 14th century "erudite Byzantine [Christian] emperor" Manuel II Paleologus, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

It was supposed to be a walk down memory lane, when Pope Benedict XVI returned to lecture some 1,500 students and faculty at the University of Regensburg —where he taught theology in the 1970s — on Tuesday, 12 September 2006. But the Pope decided to launch into what International Herald Tribune was to headline as "Pope Criticizes Western Secularism and Islam’s Jihad". The German press had of course largely ignored his remarks on Islam, but even the New York Times was forced to comment that he used "language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims, at a time of high tension among religions and three months before he makes a trip to Turkey".
His lecture, which ran over half an hour, quoted "the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both ... Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he [the Byzantine emperor] addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

But this was not all. Islam made up just three paragraphs of the lecture, as he expounded on his most pressing worry viz. how Western science and philosophy and reason had divorced themselves from faith — leading to the secularization of European society. Observers were quick to point to undercurrents of his main worry, the resultant falling Mass attendance (in Germany, it has fallen to under 15 percent) and the increasing immigrations of Muslims and conversions to Islam clashing with his aim of proselytizing.

Predictably his remarks on Islam have resulted in an immediate furore, with references to the "Nazi Pope" by bloggers who fumed that the Pope had jumped on the bandwagon of "Islamofacism" and the Byzantine Emperor's question about Islam was bound to invite counter questions about Jesus. Significantly, the Pope, unlike his predecessor John Paul, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had never approved of joint prayers with Muslims and even as a Pope has never shied away from expressing his skepticism of the benefits of inter-religious dialogue. In 2004, he had caused a stir by openly opposing membership of Turkey in the European Union on the grounds that it "always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe." The articulation of his skepticism about Islam’s openness to change, given its view of the Koran as the unchangeable word of God, is nothing new for those who have followed the current Pope's career.

But has he been more than provocative this time? As Renzo Guolo, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Padua, points out, "This is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn’t speak of fundamentalist Islam but of Islam generally. Not all Islam, thank God, is fundamentalist."

Predictably, the chief Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, had to step in for damage control: "I believe that everyone understands, even inside Islam, there are many different positions, and there are many positions that aren’t violent. Here, certainly, the pope doesn’t want to give a lesson, let’s say, an interpretation of Islam, as violent. He is saying, in the case of a violent interpretation of religion, we are in a contradiction with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".

In the interest of full context and, to ensure that the raging controversy over the remarks of is placed in perspective, we provide the full text

(HERE http://tinyurl.co.uk/vu37 )

of the lecture entitled Faith, Reason and the University - Memories and Reflections from the official Vatican website which, significantly, notes that the Pope "intends to supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes. The present text must therefore be considered provisional". © Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Posted - Sunday, September 17, 2006  -  8:02 AM Reply with quote
pope's apology

'Understand The Correct Meaning'
Vatican says the Pope "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"

Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone read out the following statement on the controversy over Pope Benedict XVI quoting Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologu: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."


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 honour 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."

The Pope's option in favour 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 fervour of Muslim believers, warned secularised 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)."

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