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 Saturday, September 16, 2006

This Pope FUMBLED BADLY... What Was He Thinking ?

  Read here full article in The Times by Ruth Gledhill

Even his critics are agreed that the Pope did not intend to cause offence to the world’s Muslims.

The Pope’s mistake was his failure to distance himself from the Byzantine Emperor’s comments, surely inflammatory enough in their own time, but a thousand times more so when repeated today.

The Pope has a history of criticism of Islam.

According to another leading Catholic who took part in a secret meeting with him on the subject last September at the Pope’s summer residence in Italy, Benedict XVI believes that Islam cannot be reformed and is therefore incompatible with democracy.

Earlier this year Father Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples and founder of the publishing house Ignatius Press, said the Pope believes that reform of Islam is impossible “because it’s against the very nature of the Koran, as it’s understood by Muslims.”

The Pope can hardly complain that he has been taken out of context by thousands of enraged Muslims around the world when he is himself guilty of the same offence in regard to Manuel II Paleologus.

And his address is undermined further by a serious error in regards to the Koran.

“In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of jihad (holy war).

The emperor must have known that surah 2,256 reads:‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.”
In fact, this surah is held by Muslim scholars to be from the middle period, around the 24th year of Mohammed’s prophethood in 624 or 625, when he was in Medina and in control of a state.

Contrary to what the Pope said, this was written when Mohammed was in a position of strength, not weakness.

The Pope’s old sparring partner, Professor Hans Kung, a former colleague of his when at Tubingen university, agrees that the Pope did not intend to provoke Muslims.

He is very interested in dialogue with all religions. But using this quotation and his whole approach to Islam in the lecture was very unfortunate,” he said.

He found it incredible that the Pope had quoted an emperor, a Christian adversary of Islam, who had set down the comments while in the middle of a battle, the siege of Constantinople in 1394 to 1402.

If a Jewish person said such a thing about a Christian, we would also be offended,” said Professor Kung. “He can of course quote what he wants, but he did this without saying the emperor was incorrect.

"This just shows the limits of the theologian Joseph Ratzinger. He never studied the religions thoroughly and very obviously has a unilateral view of Islam and the other religions.”

Professor Kung added: “The Pope just was not aware of the implications of what he was saying.”

It should have been possible to predict that the entire Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia, would see such comments in the context, not so much of the Crusades, but of European colonialism, of Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

Another senior Catholic source also described the Pope’s use of the Byzantine emperor’s comments as“extraordinary”.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said:
“He is fully entitled to raise the issue of Islamist terror of course, but in this address he is not really doing that.

If we have not learned by now that Muslims react very badly indeed to this sort of thing, I fear we will never learn.

He should have said the emperor’s comments were deplorable, and that he also recognised the reality of Christian violence, then there might not be such trouble now.”
The tragedy of the episode is that the Pope was arguing against the idea that violence can be justified, in any religion. He was making the case for the compatibility of reason with religion at a time when fundamentalism has rarely been more pre-eminent across the religious spectrum.

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