Vatican City, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) -
Benedict XVI took a moment out of his regular Wednesday General Audience to clarify again comments he made last week at the University of Regensburg. The Pontiff repeated that the words he quoted from a 14th century emperor were meant to set up an academic discussion should not, in any way, be attributed to Benedict himself.
The Pope, speaking from St. Peter’s Square, told those gathered that he had used the emperor’s words as part of a discussion on the relationship between religion and violence - a small portion of a larger speech on the relationship between faith and reason. “I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together.”
The quote which has gained the most heat from Muslim countries and Clerics was from Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus. In a discussion the medieval emperor was having with “an educated Persian,” Paleologus speaks of the irrationality of Islamic Jihad, 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.”
“This quotation, unfortunately, lent itself to possible misunderstanding,” Pope Benedict said of the line. “In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor.”
“I wished to call for a dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and for dialogue between all cultures and religions,” the Pope continued. “I hope that at various moments of my visit - when, for example, in Munich I underlined how it important it is to respect what is sacred for others - what emerged was my deep respect for all the great religions, and in particular for Muslims who 'worship the one God,' and with whom we are committed to promoting 'peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity.'”
The Holy Father also reiterated his profound respect for Islam.
“I hope that my profound respect for world religions and for Muslims, who "worship the one God" and with whom we "promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity" (Nostra Aetate, 3), is clear,” the Pontiff said.
“Let us continue the dialogue both between religions and between modern reason and the Christian faith!”
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - The official publications of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, as well as several local Italian political officials, have strongly criticized the leaders of western nations for the silence regarding the threats and insults that have been leveled against Pope Benedict XVI by Muslims.
The Italian bishops’ Religious News Service expressed its solidarity with the Pope and its surprise at “the silence of the heads of state and intellectuals of democratic nations that have their roots in Catholicism or Christianity. The West does not have the courage, apart from a few isolated cases, to defend the same freedom of expression that it will not deny anyone.”
Likewise, “Avvenire,” the Italian bishops’ newspaper, posed the question that, by insisting that Benedict XVI “apologize or retract his comments, for no reason, who could now talk, discuss or express an opinion, even in a respectful way, of the Muslim faith?”
Prominent Italian politicians followed suit in criticizing western governments, especially that of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, saying his “silence in the face of a violent campaign against the Pontiff is scandalous.”
According to a report by the Efe news agency, “the current vice president of the Senate, Roberto Calderoli, called for the resignation of Prodi and of Maurizio Lupi, the leader of Forza Italia (the party of Berlusconi), and said the ‘silence of Prodi is unbearable’ and that all the western governments should express a clear position.”
Italy’s former Minister of Justice, Roberto Castelli, announced that conservatives in the Senate have introduced a motion in support of Benedict XVI. Enrico La Loggia, another leader of the Forza Italia party, has said Italy’s ambassadors to those Muslim countries that have criticized the Pope should be recalled.
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - A previously unknown Islamic group, called The Army of Guidance, said Tuesday it would strike “every place relevant to Christians” in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for recent remarks by the Pope deemed offensive by many Muslims, reported The Associated Press.
Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said security forces in Gaza had been ordered to protect Christian sites, but he did not consider the group’s statement as a serious threat.
"I think this is empty talk," he was quoted as saying.
St. Perfidious, a 1,400-year-old Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, was attacked by unknown assailants Friday and suffered interior damage. Several other churches were attacked with firebombs and small arms.
The population of Gaza includes 1.4 million mostly conservative Muslims and a few thousand Christians.
On Monday Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for protests against the United States. He argued that while the Pope may have been deceived into making his remarks, the words give the West an “excuse for suppressing Muslims” by depicting them as terrorists, reported the AP.
“Those who benefit from the Pope's comments and drive their own arrogant policies should be targeted with attacks and protests,” he said, referring to the United States.
“The Pope's words have caused a deep wound in the hearts of Muslims that won't heal for a long time, and then only after a clear apology to Muslims,” Egypt's religious affairs minister, Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, wrote in a column in the government daily Al-Ahram on Monday.
Extremists have said the Pope's comments proved that the West was in a war against Islam. In Iraq, Al-Qaida warned that its war against Christianity and the West will continue until Islam takes over the world.
But some Muslim moderates in the Middle East are reportedly trying to put a damper on the reaction, fearing it could spiral into attacks on Christians in the region.
On Sunday, Benedict said he was “deeply sorry” over any hurt caused by his comments made in his speech last week at the University of Regensburg, a sentiment he repeated today.
Sydney, Australia, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell of Sydney said the violent response to Pope Benedict’s comments about Islam last week justified the concern the Pope had been expressing about the lack of reason which can exist in faith and the use of religion to justify violence.
”The violent reactions ... showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats, and actual violence," the cardinal-archbishop said in a statement.
Cardinal Pell expressed gratitude that no violence had occurred in Australia in retaliation to the Pope’s comments.
However, he also called the reactions of some Australian Muslim leaders "unfortunately typical and unhelpful."
"It is always someone else's fault, and issues touching on the nature of Islam are ignored," he said. The cardinal said genuine questions about Islam must be addressed and not regularly evaded.
In an op-ed article published Tuesday, he made a further appeal for Christian-Muslim dialogue.
"Accurate information, accurate understandings and a respect for truth, even across differences, are the only long-term bases for fruitful exchanges," the cardinal wrote.
However, Australian Muslim leader Ameer Ali said the cardinal's intervention was not helpful. "Pope Benedict quoted a most inappropriate quote at a most inappropriate time," he said.
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI is “less diplomacy and more Gospel,” says journalist and Vatican expert Sandro Magister in a Sept. 18 column, titled “Islam’s unreasonable war against Benedict XVI”.
According to Magister, this orientation guided the Pope in his new Vatican appointments and led him to make “such politically incorrect and such potentially explosive” comments about Islam on his recent trip to Germany.
What is evident from the appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone — a man who has spent his priestly life as a pastor rather than as a diplomat — to the position of Secretary of State is that the Pope is seeking, above all, collaboration in his papal responsibility of “strengthening the brethren in faith,” says Magister.
The appointment of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti — a Church diplomat who was born in Marakesh and is familiar with the Muslim world and questions of interaction between faiths and civilizations — as the Vatican’s new foreign minister follows the same precept, says the journalist.
Although most of the press and reaction to his trip to Germany were comments about Islam in his Sept. 12 speech at the University of Regensburg, the main purpose for the Pope’s trip to his homeland was to preach the Gospel, Magister observes.
“I came to Germany, to Bavaria, to re-propose the eternal truths of the Gospel as present-day truths and strength, and to strengthen believers in their adherence to Christ, the Son of God who became man for our salvation,” the Pope plainly stated at the end of his visit. “I am convinced in the faith that in him, in his word, is found the way not only to attain eternal happiness, but also to build already a future worthy of man upon this earth.”
Magister writes that although many Popes vet their speeches with a team of editors, Pope Benedict “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.”
He says the goal of the Pope’s trip to Germany, in which light we should read the Pope’s speech at the University of Regensburg, “was to illuminate before modern man … that simple and supreme truth that … God is love, but he is also reason; he is the ‘Logos.’”
“When reason separates itself from God, it closes in upon itself,” Magister continues. “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,” he states.
The violent reaction that followed the Pope’s statements elicited more of a pastoral, rather than a diplomatic, response from the newly appointed Vatican curia and the Pontiff, Magister observes. Archbishop Mamberti appealed for a “direct” and complete reading of the lecture the Pope gave in Regensburg.
Cardinal Bertone reaffirmed the “unmistakable” positions of the Pope, his dismay over the interpretations of his thought, and the hope that “those who profess Islam may be aided to understand his words in their right meaning.”
The Pope followed with a clarification and a personal expression of deep sorrow for the violent reaction that followed his comments.
Jakarta, Indonesia, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - Three Catholic men, who’s execution has been delayed twice before, are now scheduled to be executed Thursday in Indonesia. An Indonesian bishop, however, says there is still hope that a new appeal for clemency might be approved.
Bishop Joseph Suwatan told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), today, that he is “still praying for a miracle” just hours before they are due to go before a firing squad.
Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva were convicted of leading a Christian militia that was involved in a series of attacks on Muslims in May 2000 on the island of Sulawesi. The attacks allegedly included a gun and machete assault that killed 70 Muslims who had taken refuge in an Islamic school.
The incident was one of the bloodiest in two years of fighting between Muslim and Christian gangs on the island. At least 1,000 people from both faiths were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless.
Only a handful of people have been convicted in the attacks, and the three Christians are the only ones to have been sentenced to death. Officials appear to have concluded all investigations.
"If we are talking about fairness, all the perpetrators from both sides should be sentenced to death," the men’s lawyer, Roy Rening, was quoted as saying.
The three Christians have appealed to the Indonesian president for clemency and Catholic leaders have called on Indonesia to stay the execution. The execution was stayed last month after demonstrations by thousands of Indonesians and the Pope's appeal.
Local Islamic militants are calling for the men to be executed, but Christian groups insist the men are being made scapegoats.
While some groups are ratcheting up protests and demonstrations to stop the executions, many feel the sentence will be carried out this time.
Yet, ACN reports, Bishop Suwatan continues to hope for a last minute reprieve. “The new date for execution is serious… but we must keep on appealing on their behalf. We do not agree with this execution and we must continue to say that there is new evidence and more time is needed to search for the truth,” said the bishop.
Suwatan said the case for an appeal against their conviction was too strong to be ignored.
The bishop said, however, that circumstances have changed since August, when the Pope’s appeal was heard. He noted that while much of the unrest stirred by comments the Pope made about Islam last week has calmed, that many hard-line Islam leaders are still demanding agitation. Suwatan also said that Indonesian authorities may wish to resolve the matter before the Muslim season of Ramadan begins.
Bishop Suwatan called on the world to pray for the three men and highlighted a “prayer session” taking place in Rome involving three Indonesian bishops. “It may be that a miracle could happen and we must pray for that.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities, Felix Herrero, said Tuesday the organization would not participate in the “day of Islamic wrath,” called for the head of the Worldwide Union Muslim Ulemas, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s discourse on Islam and Mohammed.
“We will not take part in any kind of street demonstrations whose meaning could be changed and which could take an uncontrollable turn,” he explained to Europa Press. Herrero, who is also an Imam at the mosque in Malaga, said the Muslim community in Spain “does not want confrontations.”
He also called on Muslims living in Spain “not to fall into provocations or to be carried away by interests of a suspicious nature.” Herrero said the protest planned for Friday is not “a day of wrath,” as has some in the media have erroneously translated it from the Arabic, but rather “a day of complaining.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, called again on Mexicans this week to accept the new President, Felipe Calderon, and to work with him, because the country needs the collaboration of all.
“All Mexicans must recognize the President and work together with him. This country’s work needs not only one man or his cabinet, no matter how good it is; it needs all Mexicans and needs the opposition. It needs those who think differently or contrary to the plan that won,” he said in an interview quoted by the Mexican daily “La Jornada.”
At the end of Sunday Mass, the cardinal explained that “we must be consistent in respecting the person who was elected by the Mexican people.” He said post-election scuffles are normal but he called for respect for the country’s institutions.
On September 5 the Federal Electoral Tribunal declared Felipe Calderon to be the new President-elect.
Nevertheless, this past weekend Calderon’s rival in the elections, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, declared himself the “legitimate President” before thousands of followers in the Mexican capital, refusing to accept the decision of the Tribunal.
Lima, Peru, Sep 20, 2006 (CNA) - More than 600 young people participated last weekend in the 27th Catholic Students Congress (CONVIVIO), which has become a more and more important occasion for South American university students to reflect on their faith and become involved in Catholic social programs.
The Peruvian event’s theme was “And Who Do You Say That I Am?” and brought the students together to meditate on the need to live a coherently Christian life.
According to the organizers, the students “renewed their desire to more closely follow the Lord Jesus, and in a special way, to convey their experience of encounter to their contemporaries,” through dialogue, panel discussions, and diverse activities.
Students at CONVIVIO also had the opportunity for intense moments of prayer, especially in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
The event concluded with a Mass attended by the students and their families, and afterwards many students enrolled in different Catholic social projects and programs as a sign of their Christian commitment in daily life.
CONVIVIO will be held in Santiago de Guayaquil, Ecuador, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Santiago, Chile, in the coming weeks.