Pope Benedict regrets remarks that sparked Muslim rage
BY REGISTER STAFF
September 24-30, 2006 Issue | Posted 9/25/06 at 9:00 AM
The hostile reaction continued
despite the Pope’s expression Sept. 17 of “deep sorrow” over the negative
reaction to his remarks, and despite the
On Sept. 18, between 500 and 1,000
protesters marched in
Effigies of the Pope were burned
The remarks that triggered the global outpouring of Muslim outrage occurred in a speech Benedict delivered Sept. 13 to an audience of academics at the University of Regensburg in the Pope’s Bavarian homeland (see story on the Pope’s visit, page 5).
The primary thrust of the speech was an analysis of the negative consequences of modern attempts to sideline faith in God from scientific explanations of reality.
The speech did not target Muslim societies as ones where this mode of thought is prevalent. In fact, the Holy Father noted that religious, non-Western cultures often are offended and frightened by this Western conception, which regards belief in God as separate from the exercise of reason.
However, while primarily a critique of Western rationalism, the introduction of Benedict’s speech did include a brief passage involving Islam.
To introduce the theme of his lecture, the Pope quoted from an account of a 14th-century dialogue between the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an unnamed Muslim scholar. The Holy Father said the account was marginal to his theme, but that he found it interesting — particularly when the emperor touched upon the subject of Islamic holy war.
Benedict cited what the emperor told the Islamic scholar: “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.”
Twice, the Pope emphasized that he was quoting someone else’s words.
The Holy Father said the emperor must have known of Mohammed’s early teaching that “there is no compulsion in religion,” but was no doubt also aware of later instructions in the Koran about holy war.
In the account, the emperor goes on to explain why spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable, because violence is incompatible with God and with the nature of the soul.
Benedict then pointed to a key question about Islam that is raised by the narrative: whether God is absolutely transcendent for Muslims, and therefore not bound up with “any of our categories, even that of rationality.”
The Pope did not offer an answer to that question. Instead, he went on to explore, in great detail, why Christian theology has affirmed that faith is indeed based on reason.
Shortly after the Holy Father
But he said the Pope was not presenting an in-depth assessment of the concept of jihad or Islamic thinking about holy war, and it was certainly not his intention to “offend the sensibilities of Muslim believers.”
Father Lombardi noted that, on the contrary, the Holy Father’s talk was primarily about the religious shortcomings of the West.
After reading press reports of the
papal speech, Ali Bardakoglu, the head of
“I do not see any use in somebody visiting the Islamic world who thinks in this way about the holy prophet of Islam. He should first rid himself of feelings of hate,” Bardakoglu told Turkish television.
Bishop Luigi Padovese,
the apostolic vicar in Anatolia, the Asian part of modern
“Even if there are pressures for the Pope to apologize or cancel his trip, I think the Holy Father will follow the program that has been prepared for the trip,” he told AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Vatican Congregation for Interreligious Dialogue and Culture, said a careful reading would show that Benedict had offered to Islam “an outstretched hand” in the battle against an oversecularized global culture.
“I invite our Muslim friends of goodwill to take the Pope’s text in hand and read it in its entirety and meditate on it,” the cardinal said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
However, despite the
No injuries were reported in those
attacks. But some media observers suggested that the Sept. 16 murder of an
Italian nun, Sister Leonella Sgorbati,
While a spokesman for her order,
the Consolata Missionaries, said in statements to
Reuters that the congregation has “no reason” to believe the murder was linked
to Benedict’s speech, speculation of such a link was raised in media reports
because of a call Sept. 16 by a religious leader in
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s new secretary of state, issued a formal statement Sept. 16 disassociating the Pope from having any intention to offend Muslims or to express disrespect for Islam in his Sept. 13 speech (see sidebar).
During his Sept. 17 Angelus remarks, Benedict addressed the controversy personally.
“At this time, I wish also to add
that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of
my address at the
Added the Holy Father, “Yesterday, the cardinal secretary of state published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.”
(CNS, Zenit and
contributed to this story.)
‘A Clear and Radical Rejection of Violence’
VATICAN CITY — Here is the text of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s Sept. 16 statement regarding the controversy engendered by Pope Benedict XVI’s speech Sept. 13 at the University of Regensburg.
“Given the reaction in Muslim quarters to certain passages of the Holy
Father’s address at the
“The position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate (The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions): ‘The Church also regards the Muslims with esteem. 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.’
“The Pope’s option in favor of interreligious and intercultural dialogue is equally unequivocal. In his meeting with representatives of Muslim communities in Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 20, 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 that he quoted
“The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and 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.’”
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