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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pope warns religious violence `contrary to God's nature'

An interesting article given the debate going on all over the world. I find particularly interesting the comparision between Pope Benedict XVI to Pope John Paul II in their approach to Mohammadans ;-). The author states that Benedict does not have "the keen geopolitical ear of his predecessor" but I wonder if it is Benedict who better understands the Geopolitics of this age.

Pope warns religious violence `contrary to God's nature'


By Tracy Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times

REGENSBURG, Germany - Pope Benedict XVI stepped into the volatile realm of religious violence Tuesday, warning that fanaticism is ``contrary to God's nature'' and quoting a criticism of historical Islam likely to inflame tensions in the Muslim world.

Speaking to academics at the University of Regensburg where he taught theology in the 1970s, the pope traversed centuries of Islamic, Greek and Christian philosophy to decry holy wars and forced conversions, and to hold up Christianity as the ``profound encounter of faith and reason.''
The pope's lecture was long, dense and subject to wide interpretation. Rather than criticize Islam directly, he cited a Byzantine emperor's harsh condemnation of Islam, its founder Muhammad and holy war.

Benedict used the word ``jihad,'' choosing the emotionally and politically loaded Arabic term for holy war or struggle.

``Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,'' Benedict said.

``Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.''

In contrast to fanatic abuse of religion, the pope said, in Christianity ``the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself.''

Ultimately, Benedict's long exposition was not about Islam but about the dangers of secularism in the Christian West and the need to better know God, his favored themes. But the remarks on Islam, however couched, were likely to draw the most attention.

Benedict's disdain for radical Islam, and the use of religion to justify terrorism, is well-known. Last year, during his inaugural trip as pope to Cologne, he accused Muslim community leaders of failing to steer their youths from ``the darkness of a new barbarism,'' and he has asserted the fundamental importance of Europe's Christian history and character.

In November, Benedict is scheduled to travel to Muslim Turkey, a candidate to join the European Union, in what promises to be his most prickly expedition abroad thus far.
At the university in this medieval city, on the fourth day of a six-day tour of his native Bavaria, the pope quoted Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in conversation with ``an educated Persian'': ``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.''
Departing from his prepared text, the pope added two reminders to his audience that he was quoting, an indication he was aware of the sensitivity of the comment.

Manuel II was speaking at the end of the 14th century in Constantinople. It was a time of great tumult between the Christian and Muslim worlds and about 50 years before the fall of the fabled city, then the capital of Christendom, to the Muslim Ottomans.

The pope said the emperor would have been aware of Koranic instructions on the waging of holy war as he argued that the spreading of the faith through violence ``is something unreasonable.'' Father Federico Lombardi, the pope's spokesman, said Benedict was not attacking Islam but highlighting forced conversions and holy war as historical examples of the violent use of religion.
The pope ``does not want to give an interpretation of Islam as something violent,'' Lombardi told reporters. ``We know that inside Islam there are many different positions, not only violent but non-violent, too.''

But Benedict, the consummate professor, chooses his words carefully. Whether he intended a more overt criticism or was simply provoking intellectual debate was not immediately clear. In just under 17 months in the papacy, Benedict has displayed a sharp intellect and deep theological grounding, but not always the keen geopolitical ear of his predecessor, John Paul II.