Pope Benedict XVI to visit England

If you haven’t already been hearing about it in the news, Pope Benedict XVI will visit England in a few weeks for 4 days. Our Holy Father is definitely going to need prayers. There are already planned protests and everything anyone disagrees with regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church seems to be back on the table for discussion. The Church is never going to ordain women as priests. The Church is never going to allow contraceptives to ruin the marital embrace. Get over it. Find something else to complain about. Putting an ad on a London bus is not going incite an Ecumenical Council to overhaul the teachings of the Church. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s just wasted money.

And earlier this summer, it was reported that English Muslims were planning to protest the visit and “tell the Pope what they really think of him” (i.e., utter slanderous and spiteful words). Supposedly the UK police are going to be monitoring the situation, and I hope they keep on it. The extremist website promoting the hatred is still fuming over Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg Address… they obviously never read Pope Benedict XVI’s Truth and Tolerance.

Thus it becomes apparent that, beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question about truth. Can truth be recognized? Or, is the question about truth simply inappropriate in the realm of religion and belief? But what meaning does belief then have, what positive meaning does religion have, if it cannot be connected with truth?
… we have to get a view of the phenomenon of religion as such and cannot simply start from an undifferentiated mass of “religions” in general. We first have to try to understand them as they are, in their historical dynamic, in their essential structures and types, as also in their possible threats to each other, before we try to arrive at any judgments…
And finally, we have inevitably to face up to the question of whether man is made for the truth and in what way he can, and even must, put the question of truth.

From the Regensburg Address:

…I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both… The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, 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.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature…

The Address was a speech on faith and reason, and the hullabaloo over Pope Benedict XVI’s quotation is pure childishness. He is making a point (in relation to faith and reason) about violence and God using an example from someone else. The Holy Father was never claiming Islam is a religion of violence, or making a statement about Mohammed. Though, the reaction of certain Muslims to the out-of-context quote following the lecture is demonstrating its own point… that it still continues to be a point of contention regarding the Pope is even more baffling. Anyone who flames up at the Holy Father for it, has completely missed the entire point of the lecture, and I hope they will read it (the whole thing), in context.

In any case, we should prepare for the Holy Father’s visit to England by praying hard for him, and for those who will hear him. Viva il Papa!

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat
eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
[Ps 40:3]

Pater Noster…,  Ave Maria….

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum
Benedictum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti,
propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo,
quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi
credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum
nostrum. Amen.

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make
him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the
will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

Our Father…,  Hail Mary….

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look
mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen
as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we
beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify
those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the
flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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2 Responses

  1. I have to disagree. This man, and remember that is all he is – a man at the head of a man-made institution with a history of attrocities to rival any despotic and murderous regime – has set back the Catholic Church and inter-faith relations decades after the excellent work undertaken by his predecessor. I know many devout Catholics in the UK who will not be attending the gatherings. This will explain my views:

    http://caughtinthemiddleman.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/the-leader-of-the-true-faith/

  2. We will disagree that the Catholic Church is a man-made institution. Though, yes, the Pope is a man who heads the Catholic Church on earth.

    Devoutness is subject to fidelity. A Catholic who rejects the teachings of the Church cannot be said to be ‘devout’. To skip out on the Pope’s visit to the UK would be a sorry thing to do.

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