Wednesday, September 20, 2006

He is Theologian, not a Diplomat

Sandro Magister has an interesting article on the events which transpired in Regensburg.

Less diplomacy and more Gospel: this is the course that Joseph Ratzinger is setting for the Church’s central governance. Even in the choice of archbishop Mamberti as foreign minister, what the pope kept in mind even more than his diplomatic competency was his direct familiarity with the Muslim world and with the related questions of faith and civilization. Born in Marakesh, with French citizenship via Corsica, Mamberti was a pontifical representative in Chile and to the United Nations, but also in Algeria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and most recently in Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia.

And it was again this criterion – less diplomacy and more Gospel – that led the pope, in the course of his trip to Germany, to say such politically incorrect, and such potentially explosive, words.

Anyone who is an expert in the art of diplomacy and a proponent of “realism” in international relations would certainly have censured as inopportune and dangerous many passages of the homilies and speeches delivered by Benedict XVI in Germany.

But this 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. His goal on his trip to Germany was to illuminate before modern man – whether Christian, agnostic, or of another faith; from Europe, Africa, or Asia – that simple and supreme truth that is the other side of the truth to which he dedicated the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” God is love, but he is also reason, he is the “Logos.” And so when reason separates itself from God, it closes in upon itself. 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.

Two days before the lecture at the University of Regensburg against which Muslim government officials and opinion makers launched their protests, Benedict XVI had exposed this truth in the homily for the Mass on Sunday, September 10 in Munich, with connotations that had even let him pass as pro-Islamic in some media commentaries.

The pope had said:

“People in Africa and Asia admire, indeed, the scientific and technical prowess of the West, but they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision, as if this were the highest form of reason, and one to be taught to their cultures too. They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme criterion for the future of scientific research. Dear friends, this cynicism is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world's peoples are looking for and that all of us want! The tolerance which we urgently need includes the fear of God – respect for what others hold sacred. This respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God. But this sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn, if God become once more present to us and in us. We don't impose our faith on anyone...”

Read the rest here.

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