Domine Quo Vadis?
Here's the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's speech to Muslims on the subject of combating terrorism in the world today. Benedict's verbatim speech should be read because it is almost certain to be misinterpreted and distorted in the coming days to suit competing political agendas. (Speculation alert) Benedict, in giving this speech on his first trip back to his homeland as Pope, may be deliberately reprising John Paul's first visit to his homeland Poland in 1979. On that occasion, as Peggy Noonan writes, John Paul asked the one question which any Communist regime is unwilling to answer or even discuss. But it hung in the air in despite of the commissars, and set the agenda for the coming decade. Eastern Europe was never the same again. And the issue, of course, was whether man had an inherent transcendence and a right to be free.
Is it possible to dismiss Christ and everything which he brought into the annals of the human being? Of course it is possible. The human being is free. The human being can say to God, "No." The human being can say to Christ, "No." But the critical question is: Should he? And in the name of what "should" he? ... You must be strong with love, which is stronger than death. ... Never lose your trust, do not be defeated .... Never lose your spiritual freedom.
The erudite Benedict is certainly aware of the parallel. He asks in turn, 'can we survive, except as brothers?' Whether he has found the fulcrum of history, as John Paul did, remains to be seen. But like his predecessor he has put the unmentionable on the table and must now, as John Paul did, accept the danger that comes to all who do business with serious memes. Although the Pope's speech was delivered to Muslims, his real audience is inevitably going to be the West in general and Christians in particular. Realistically, Benedict's message will reach ordinary Muslims only at third hand in a heavily distorted way; it can hardly be expected to sway them. But the signal it sends to the West, at least to those who look up to him as a moral and religious leader, is that here is something we cannot look away from. Ambiguous though it may be, his message has run the PC blockade.
Some commentators may view Benedict's remarks as inflammatory, akin to mentioning the old feud in a room of Hatfields and McCoys. It may have the opposite effect. Perceptive Muslim leaders will understand that the West is awakening, and that the time to speak clearly is nigh.
|Dear Muslim Friends!
It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my heartfelt greetings. I have come here to meet young people from every part of Europe and the world. Young people are the future of humanity and the hope of the nations. My beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca (Morocco): “The young can build a better future if they first put their faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in accordance with God’s plan, with wisdom and trust” (Insegnamenti , VIII/2, 1985, p. 500). It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.
|This is the "pastoral" passage, emphasizing the brotherhood between people of all religions.|
|I am certain that I echo your
own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of
terrorism. Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts
of the world, sowing death and destruction, and plunging many of our
brothers and sisters into grief and despair. Those who instigate and
plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of
all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a
peaceful, fair and serene life together. Terrorism of any kind is a
perverse and cruel decision which shows contempt for the sacred right to
life and undermines the very foundations of all civil society. If
together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour,
in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every
manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel
fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders
progress towards world peace. The task is difficult but not impossible.
The believer knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the
spiritual power of prayer.
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values. The dignity of the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples’ hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism. Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.
|Here the Pope depicts terrorism
-- the 'new barbarism' -- as a common threat and suggests that
collective action against it is possible.
"We can succeed in eliminating" ...
"There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values."
|During my meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that “the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole” (L’Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4). Past experience teaches us that relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization.||We get a rare glimpse into how
the Catholic religious bureaucracy works -- through councils,
delegations, meetings, etc. That is the operational way in which the
Pope manages his message.
This paragraph is also an mea culpa for actions of violence the Catholic Church has performed in the past, but interestingly and explosively, it contains the e tu -- "with both sides invoking the name of God". Benedict says, 'we have sinned, but so have you'.
Although Benedict is doing nothing more than state an historical fact, this paragraph crosses an invisible line that no head of a major Christian Church has crossed before. It is the mildest of je accuses, tempered by an admission of equal historical guilt. But it is indicative of how charged today's atmosphere is that merely to utter these words is so difficult.
|In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims. “The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God . . . Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people” (Declaration Nostra Aetate, No. 3).||The Pope proposes that religious enmity between Christian and Muslim become a thing of the past in classic ecclesiastical language. Note in passing the immense historical memories of both Islam and the Catholic Church. When Benedict speaks of the "new barbarism" he is making reference to Attila and Hulagu Khan, not speaking figuratively.|
|You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. As Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends. Young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love. They are the first fruits of a new dawn for humanity. I pray with all my heart, dear Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always. May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world.||Therefore, the Pope seems to say
to the Muslims in the room, survival is in our hands and that means
"You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation."