Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A developing theological maelstrom?

Today, Pope Benedict XVI tried to clarify his speech of September 12. The London Times Online:
"But for the careful reader of my text it is clear that I in no way wanted to make mine the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor and their polemical content does not reflect my personal conviction," the Pope said.

"My intention was very different. I wanted to explain that religion and violence do not go together but religion and reason do.

"I trust that after the initial reaction, my words at the University of Regensburg can constitute an impulse and encouragement toward positive, even self-critical dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith."
One expert believes that Benedict will remain firm in his support of his entire speech, the Washington Times:
Still, "challenging Islam is not Benedict's priority," says David Gibson, author of the just-released book "The Rule of Benedict." "He doesn't want to see this as a debate between equals. There's no theological parity between the two. He's not there to compromise on that.

"One of the reasons he was elected last year was the cardinals felt he'd be much more confrontational with Islam. Benedict has voiced real doubts about Islam's ability to reform itself."

Benedict has studied Islam extensively and, in a 1997 interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, dealt generously with the religion.

"There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice," the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said.
The London Times points to noteworthy clerical support for the Pope (quoted from first Times link):
Today The Times revealed that the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton had defended the Pope’s speech and issued his own challenge to the Muslim world, which he said had developed a “deep-seated Westophobia” in recent times.

In a lecture titled The Cross and the Crescent: The Clash of Faiths in an Age of Secularism, at Newbold College, Berkshire, Lord Carey said that Muslims had to address “with great urgency” their religion’s association with violence.

“We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times,” he said. “There will be no significant material and economic progress [in Muslim communities] until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.”
Lord Carey's website has a copy of his speech, The Cross and the Crescent: The Clash of Faiths in an Age of Secularism. I have yet to read that address, though I will today.

The Times Online (first link) story also notes this:
His [Benedict] words came after it emerged that the man who shot and wounded the previous Pope had written to Pope Benedict XVI to urge him not to visit Turkey as planned in November. Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to murder John Paul II in 1981 and is now in prison in Turkey, said: "I write as one who knows about these matters very well…Your life is in danger. Don’t come to Turkey — absolutely not!"
Pope Benedict XVI's speech of September 12, Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections, is available on the Vatican's website.


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