The Pope comes to Ground Zero
According to the Daily Telegraph, when Pope Benedict XVI visits Ground Zero next week, he "will call for terrorists to convert to Christianity."
Tom Heneghan parses the actual text of Benedict's prayer. At issue is the phrase "turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred" which features in his speech, which while not explicitly calling for a conversion to a particular religion is certainly suggestive. Heneghan writes:
As we read it, the structure of the prayer strongly implies that Benedict is referring to terrorists abroad. ... It is not the first time Benedict has spoken about terrorists this way. In his first meeting as pope with Muslims, during the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, he brought up the issue right away and thanked the Muslim leaders present for denouncing Islamist terrorism. He then said, according to the official Vatican translation: “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 Telegraph says that Benedict's planned prayer is likely to provoke outrage among some Islamists:
The prayer is likely to further incense the Muslim world, which has already attacked the Pope for publicly converting Magdi Allam, a journalist and one of Italy's most high-profile Muslims, at Easter.
Osama bin Laden accused the Pope of trying to provoke "a new crusade" against Islam.
Aref Ali Nayed, a leading scholar and proponent of peaceful relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam, said that there were "genuine questions about the motives, intentions and plans of some of the Pope's advisers on Islam".
It is interesting to examine why exactly Benedict's planned speech is so provocative. From Osama's perspective, the site of the former World Trade Center is the scene of his greatest triumph. His monument of bones. Now Benedict plans to come to that very spot to utterly reject the ideology that brought the hijackers there.
In the days immediately after September 11 President Bush came to denounce the men who came that autumn day as renegades from the Religion of Peace. But Benedict's business is not with the men; but with the dark spirit behind them. And whether or not you believe in such things, Osama does. And bin Laden knows that Benedict will call to each of the hijackers by their name; not as an accuser but as shepherd looking for a long-long flock. He will bid them come forth into the light, for his staff is meant for wolves.
No insult is so great as the one that rings true. And even bin Laden may wonder whether there are more things on heaven and on earth than he has dreamed of.
The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.