Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address and the Muslim Reaction (Part II)

Entering the week after the Pope’s Regensburg address and the media-spawned controversy over his statements on Islam, and the fires of outrage are still going strong. Effigies of the Pope were burnt in Basra, Iraq (Reuters); protests practically shut down the Kashmir Valley, paralyzing “educational institutions, government offices, banks, markets and transport”; Muslims in the Gaza strip told the pope he must “accept Islam”, and the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq’s branch of al Qaeda, vowed “jihad”:

“We shall break the cross and spill the wine. … God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. … God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen,” said the statement.

It was posted on Sunday on an Internet site often used by al Qaeda and other militant groups.

Also today, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel conveyed her support — a lone voice in the wilderness of European heads-of-state?

And now, another roundup of commentary on the ongoing controversy:

  • Islam’s Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI, by Sandro Magister (www.Chiesa Sept. 18, 2006):

    Anyone who is an expert in the art of diplomacy and a proponent of “realism” in international relations would certainly have censured as inopportune and dangerous many passages of the homilies and speeches delivered by Benedict XVI in Germany.

    But this is not a pope who submits himself to such censorship or self-censorship, which he sees as being inopportune and dangerous indeed when it concerns the pillars of his preaching. His goal on his trip to Germany was to illuminate before modern man – whether Christian, agnostic, or of another faith; from Europe, Africa, or Asia – that simple and supreme truth that is the other side of the truth to which he dedicated the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” God is love, but he is also reason, he is the “Logos.” And so when reason separates itself from God, it closes in upon itself. And likewise, faith in an “irrational” God, an absolute, unbridled will, can become the seed of violence. Every religion, culture, and civilization is exposed to this twofold error – not only Islam, but also Christianity, toward which the pope directed almost the entirety of his preaching.

  • From Fr. Fessio of Ignatius Press (and one of the Pope’s former students), offers his reflections on the Regensberg address, asking Is Dialogue wit Islam Possible? Ignatius Insight Sept. 18, 2006:

    Yet there is a crucial underlying principle that needs to be enunciated. Christianity and Islam make incompatible truth claims. Despite the difficulty in determining who can speak authoritatively for Christianity or for Islam, there are elements of belief common to all Christians which are incompatible with elements of belief common to all Muslims. The two most obvious and most fundamental are the Trinity and the Incarnation.

    I would expect an intelligent and informed Muslim to consider me a blasphemer (because I introduce multiplicity into the one God) and an idolator (because I worship as God a man named Jesus). Should I be offended if he says so publicly? Should I not rather be offended if he conceals his position for the alleged purpose of fostering dialogue?

  • On the blog of Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., the question is raised: Who Will Stand with the Pope?:

    It’s been 5 days and still no official statement from the USCCBureaucracy. Has anyone’s individual bishop spoken out?

    Some of his readers respond with mentions of recognition and prayer at Mass in their parishes. Another mentioned these words from Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia.

    Bill Cork (Built on a Rock) posts a link to Audio of yesterday’s homily by the Rev. Stephen B. Reynolds on “the latest Papal-Muslim bru-ha-ha.”. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa’s Church in Sugar Land, TX. A clear exposition of the Holy Father’s Regensburg address. Well worth listening to (and more priests like this, please!)

    Also mentioned, this statement from Fr. Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation (The CL Press Office Milan, September 15, 2006):

    “Concerning the accusations against Benedict XVI, three things are evident: 1) The Pope certainly did not want to offend Islamic believers, but to call everyone to a correct use of reason; 2) the Pope has a clear awareness of some extreme aspects of the vicissitudes of Islam, which are truths of history before the eyes of all; and 3) there is an intolerance of peaceful criticism that is intolerable, both in terms of the preconceived positions of certain Islamic exponents, and in terms of the indifference and superficiality of many Western commentators.

    “We stand by the Pope. In affirming that “not acting according to reason is against the nature of God,” Benedict XVI said a true thing that holds for anyone, beginning with we Christians.

    “This position of the Pope saves the possibility for an authentic religious experience for every man, and permits an encounter in peace. It is not a question of a clash of civilizations, but the elementary experience of the “poor of spirit” of every religion: those who live a reasonable relationship with God, beginning from the needs for truth, beauty, justice, and happiness that are in the heart of every man, and precisely for this cannot follow the violent degenerations of those who, in the name of an ideology, reject reason for a power, be they in the West or anywhere else.”

  • Father Peregrinator (Canterbury Tales) draws our attention to The Man of the Hour: Manuel II Paleologos.
  • From Amy Welborn, another survey of mixed reactions from the Arab press.
  • From Muslim author believes “Pope should not have apologized CBSNews.com Sept. 18, 2006. (Via Rod Dreher @ CrunchyCon):

    As a faithful Muslim, I do not believe the pope should have apologized. I’ve read what’s been described as his inflammatory speech. Actually, he called for dialogue with the Muslim world. To ignore that larger context and to focus on a mere few words of the speech is like reducing the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to its most bloodthirsty passages. We Muslims hate it when people do that. The hypocrisy of doing this to the pope stinks to high heaven.

    Irshad Manji is a Muslim, a feminist, and a best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith (St. Martins, 2005). She is based at Yale University as a Visiting Fellow with the International Security Studies program.

    Amy Welborn is rounding up reactions from clear-headed, fair-minded Muslims who are challenging those who have embarassed their faith and tradition.

  • First ThingsFr. Richard J. Neuhaus weighs in (he, too, was reminded if Benedict’s Cologne 2005 address to the Muslim community. On Benedict’s choice of Manuel II Paleologos as an illustration:

    I have had the opportunity of many extended conversations with Ratzinger-Benedict over the years, and he is a man of great gentleness and deliberation and extremely careful to say what he means. What he said at Regensburg he has said many times before. Contrary to many reports, he has not apologized or retracted his argument. He has indicated sincere regret that many Muslims have reacted to his statement as they have. The response of those who are properly called jihadists is, “If you don’t stop saying we’re violent, we’re going to bomb more churches, kill more nuns and priests, and get the pope too.” In short, the reaction has powerfully confirmed the problem to which Benedict called our attention.

    Some think that Benedict was not as judicious as he might have been in quoting a medieval emperor of the East who, faced by Islamic conquest that succeeded in turning Christian Constantinople into Islamic Istanbul, declared that Islam has produced only inhumanity and evil. That is arguable. Benedict did say at Regensburg that the emperor’s words were excessively “brusque.” But the citation was also a way of reminding everybody that this conflict with Islam bent upon conversion by the sword is very long-standing.

    And his conclusion:

    Benedict’s responsibility is to set forth clearly and uncompromisingly the Christian understanding. At Regensburg he said: “God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word— reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John [the Evangelist] thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God . . . In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God.”

    As history is turning out, this theological truth is at the very core of what is likely the greatest political and cultural struggle of this century, and maybe beyond.

    But was it a “Papal Blunder”?” — That is the question, as presented by the media, and up for discussion by readers at Amy Welborn’s Open Book.

    Among those affirming the judgement that yes, a blunder was made:

    • Mark Shea:

      The bishop, and supremely the Universal Pastor, has responsibility for the care of *all* the souls in his jurisdiction–including the Muslim ones. Benedict said nothing untrue–which is why he has not apologized for what he said, nor should he. But he is trying very hard to counter the bad effects of what he need not have said, but did. If he did not think those ill effects of his words were, in some sense, his responsibility, he would not be saying anything. The last thing Benedict wants is to destroy the Church’s ability to speak to both East and West. He may already be too late, but only time will tell.

    • Jimmy Akin:

      in the process of taking a detour to say something meant to help break the link between religion and violence, he happened to quote a particularly inflammatory line from 600 years ago that could and has stirred up the potential for religious violence. And the line isn’t even necessary to his speech!

    • Robert Miller of First Things:

      Given the exquisite sensitivity that European politicians generally show for Muslim sensibilities, when a pope, speaking in public and before television cameras, quotes a text embodying a statement that will predictably result in explosive anger in the Muslim world, does so without needing to quote the specific language to make his point, does not expressly disavow the offending statement when quoting it, and even endorses a larger point that the author of the quotation is making, a decent respect for the intelligence of the man on the Throne of St. Peter demands that we conclude that he quoted the text intentionally, knowing what the consequences would be, and did so for a reason.

      See also Pope Benedict Clarifies – Jimmy Akin unpacks the Pope’s words in his Sunday remarks on the Regensburg speech, and concludes: “From the original speech itself and from the way the Vatican has handled this matter, it is clear that the present situation was unexpected and that the Holy Father did not foresee this reaction to his speech.”

  • Meanwhile, Turkish bishops confirm trip of Benedict XVI will go ahead, by Mavi Zambak. Asianews.it September 18, 2006:

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The bishops of Turkey today followed Ankara’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullah Gul, in confirming that the visit of Benedict XVI will take place as planned, from 28 November to 1 December, according to the set itinerary. . . .

    And this morning, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, as planned, met in Istanbul to discuss details of the trip’s itinerary. They were joined by Mgr Piero Marini, head of the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. They share the view that at this point, there is no reason to call off the visit . . .

    But according to John Allen Jr., Some are justifiably anxious about the Pope’s visit to Turkey:

    A potboiler novel currently on bestseller lists in Turkey titled Papa’ya suikast (“Attack on the Pope”) predicts that Benedict will be assassinated.

    Written by novelist Yücel Kaya, the book is subtitled, Who will kill Benedict XVI in Istanbul?

    In a little more than 300 pages, Kaya manages to weave the Turkish Secret Service, the infamous Masonic lodge P2, and (of course) Opus Dei into his plot line. Inevitably, Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, also makes an appearance.

    All this might seem comical were it not for the fact that in the last seven months, three Catholic priests have been attacked in Turkey, beginning with the murder of Italian missionary Fr. Andrea Santoro on February 5. Bishop Luigi Padovese, a 58-year-old Capuchin from Milan who serves as the region’s apostolic vicar, and who was Santoro’s superior, has warned of a “rising tide” of anti-Christian propaganda in Turkey.

    Pray for our Holy Father.

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