Search this Topic:
May 24 16 5:04 AM
After his historic meeting on Monday with Pope Francis in the Vatican, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque said the “rivers of blood” in the Middle East must end, and warned that if terrorism is allowed to fester, East and West “will suffer together.”“Today I am in the heart of Europe, and I would like to make the most of my presence in this institution, so great for Catholics – the Vatican – to launch an appeal to the entire world so that it can unite and close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism,” said Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb.The al-Azhar mosque and university complex in Cairo, Egypt, is generally considered the highest authority in the roughly 1.3 billion-strong Sunni Muslim world.“This is my appeal to the world and to the freemen of the world: to come to an agreement immediately and to intervene to put an end to these rivers of blood,” el-Tayeb said in an interview with Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.El-Tayeb also said that Islam has “nothing to do with this terrorism,” and that those who kill Muslims and Christians have misunderstood the text of Islam, either intentionally or by negligence.The Grand Imam also spoke about a conference organized in Al-Azhar last year, after which Muslim and Christian leaders made an appeal to not confuse terrorist organizations with Muslims.“We said with one voice, Muslims and Christians, that we are the masters of this land and we are partners, and each one of us has a right to this land,” el-Tayeb said. “We have rejected forced emigration, slavery and the trade in women in the name of Islam.”The imam also said that the current violence in the Middle East shouldn’t be portrayed as “persecution of Christians” because the largest number of victims are Muslim, and that if anything, the two are “suffering this catastrophe together.”He called the world not to blame religions due to the “deviations of some of their followers,” because in every creed there’s a deviant faction that uses religion as an excuse to kill.El-Tayeb also said that religious leaders have the responsibility to “give humanity a new direction” towards mercy and peace to “avoid the great crisis we are suffering now.”This crisis, he argued, is the result of “the philosophies and modern social ideologies” which have taken humanity far from religion, failing “to make man happy or to take him far from wars and bloodshed.”“Man without religion constitutes a danger to his fellow man, and I believe that people now, in the 21st century, have started to look around and to seek out wise guides to lead them in the right direction,” el-Tayeb said.It’s this need for religions to work together what has led to his visit to the Vatican, the first for any Gran Imam of Al-Azhar, though John Paul II had visited the study house back in 2000.Talking about Pope Francis, the imam defined him as “a man of peace” who follows the teachings of Christianity, “which is a religion of love and peace.” The pontiff, he added, is also someone who respects other religions and their followers, and also someone who “takes responsibility for people in general.”The encounter between the two religious leaders, who combined amount to 2.5 billion followers, took place on Monday in the Vatican. It marked the resumption of a dialogue between al-Azhar and the Vatican after a five-year suspension.“The meeting is the message,” the pope said upon encountering the imam for the first time.
May 24 16 5:37 AM
Christians have a mission to convert all Muslims, according to one of Pope Francis’s senior aides.Cardinal Kurt Koch, who leads ecumenical relations for the Vatican, made the comments at an interfaith meeting held by Cambridge University’s Woolf Institute.Cardinal Koch also said that Christians should not try and convert Jews and should view Judaism as a “mother”.“We have a mission to convert all non-Christian religions’ people [except] Judaism,” he said, before reportedly adding that this extended to jihadis responsible for persecuting Christians in the Middle East.The cardinal also urged Christians to view Judaism as a “mother” and said Christainity and Judaism shared a special relationship.“It is very clear that we can speak about three Abrahamic religions but we cannot deny that the view of Abraham in Jewish and the Christian tradition and the Islamic tradition is not the same,” he said.“In this sense we have only with Jewish people this unique relationship that we do not have with Islam.
May 25 16 4:56 AM
Interview With Grand Imam of al-AzharFollowing Meeting Between Pope, Leading Authority on Sunni Islam Spoke to Vatican MediaYesterday, after the audience in the Apostolic Palace, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib, granted an interview to the Vatican media. It took place at the residence of the Eyptian ambassador to the Holy See, and two reporters from Vatican Radio participated: Fr. Jean-Pierre Yammine, head of the Arabic Section, and Cyprien Viet, from the French Section, along with Maurizio Fontana of L’Osservatore Romano. The interview was recorded in audio and video by Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre, and took place entirely in Arabic. It was translated into Italian by the Arabic Section of Vatican Radio.**********John Paul II was the first Pope to visit the Grand Imam of al-Azhar during his visit to Egypt as part of the Great Jubilee of 2000. Today the Grand Imam is the first to visit the Pope in the Vatican on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy. What is the meaning of these important events?In the name of Clement and Merciful God, I would first like to convey my thanks to His Holiness Pope Francis, for having welcomed me with my delegation from Al-Azhar, and for the warm welcome and affection reserved to me. Today we pay this visit as part of an Al-Azhar initiative, and the agreement between Al-Azhar and the Vatican to continue our holy mission, which is the mission of religions: “to make human beings joyful everywhere”. Al-Azhar has a dialogue, or rather a commission for interreligious dialogue with the Vatican, which was suspended in specific circumstances, but now those circumstances no longer exist, we resume the path of dialogue and hope that it will be better than before. And I am happy to be the first Sheikh of Al-Azhar to visit the Vatican and to sit alongside the Pope in an encounter of discussion and understanding.A short while ago the Grand Imam met Pope Francis in the Vatican. What can we say about this encounter and the atmosphere in which it took place?The first impression, which was very strong, is that this man is a man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a religion of love and peace, and following His Holiness we have seen that he is a man who respects other religions and shows consideration for their followers; he is man who also consecrates his life to serve the poor and the destitute, and who takes responsibility for people in general; he is an ascetic man, who has renounced the ephemeral pleasures of worldly life. All these are qualities that we share with him, and therefore we wish to encounter this man in order to work together for humanity in this vast field we have in common.What are the duties of the great religious authorities and religious leaders in today’s world?These responsibilities are heavy and grave at the same time, because we are aware, as we said also to His Holiness, that all the philosophies and modern social ideologies that have taken the lead of humanity, far from religion and far from heaven, have failed to make man happy or to take him far from wars and bloodshed. I believe that the moment has arrived for the representatives of the Divine Religions to participate strongly and in a concrete way to give humanity a new direction, towards mercy and peace, so that humanity can avoid the great crisis we are suffering now. Man without religion constitutes a danger to his fellow man, and I believe that people now, in the twenty-first century, have started to look around and to seek out wise guides to lead them in the right direction. And all this has led us to this meeting and this discussion, and to the agreement to begin to take a step in the right direction.The University of Al-Azhar is engaged in important work in renewing scholastic texts. Can you tell us something about this project?Yes, we renew them in the sense that we clarify the Muslim concepts that have been deviated by those who use violence and terrorism, and by armed movements that claim to work for peace. We have identified these erroneous concepts, and we have offered this as part of a curriculum to our students in middle and high schools, we have shown them the deviant side and the deviant understanding, and at the same time we have tried to make our students understand the correct concepts, from which these extremists and terrorists have deviated. We have established a world observatory, that monitors in eight languages the material disseminated by these extremist movements, and the distorted ideas that deviate youth. And today this material is corrected and then translated into other languages. Through the “Home of the Egyptian Family” – which reunites Muslims with all the Christian confessions in Egypt, and is a joint project between Al-Azhar and the Churches – we seek to offer an answer to those who take opportunities and wait in ambush to sow disorder, divisions and conflicts between Christians and Muslims. We also have the Muslim Council of Elders, chaired by the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, and this Council sends peace delegations to the various world capitals and carries out important activity in favour of peace and to promote genuine Islam. We held in the past, around a year ago, a conference in Florence, right here in Italy, on the theme “East and West”, or rather “The Collaboration between East and West”. In addition, we receive at Al-Azhar imams from mosques in Europe, as part of a two-month programme offering formation in dialogue, exposing erroneous concepts and dealing with the integration of Muslims in European societies and nations, so that they may be a resource for the security, prosperity and strength of those countries.The Middle East is experiencing great difficulties. What messages would you like to give us in this regard, on the occasion of this visit to the Vatican?Certainly. I come from the Middle East where I live and I suffer, along with others, the consequences of the rivers of blood and cadavers, and there is no logical reason for this catastrophe that we are living day and night. Certainly there are internal and external motivations, whose convergence has inflamed these wars. Today I am in the heart of Europe and I would like to make the most of my presence in this institution, so great for Catholics – the Vatican – to launch an appeal to the entire world so that it can unite and close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism, because I believe that if this terrorism is neglected, the price will be paid not only in the east; both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen. Therefore this is my appeal to the world and to the free men of the world: to come to an agreement immediately and to intervene to put an end to these rivers of blood.Allow me to say something in this declaration: yes, terrorism exists, but Islam has nothing to do with this terrorism, and this applies to Ulama Muslims and to Christians and Muslims in the East. And those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence. A year ago Al-Azhar held a General Conference for Ulama Muslims, Sunni and Shiite, and invited the leaders of the Eastern Churches, of various religions and confessions, and even the Yazidi sent a representative to this conference under the aegis of Al-Azhar. Among the most salient points of the joint declaration, it was said that Islam and Christianity have nothing to do with those who kill, and we asked the West not to confuse this deviant and misled group with Muslims. We said with one voice, Muslims and Christians, that we are the masters of this land and we are partners, and each one of us has a right to this land. We have rejected forced emigration, slavery and the trade in women in the name of Islam. Here I would like to say that the issue must not be presented as persecution of Christians in the East, but on the contrary there are more Muslim than Christian victims, and we all suffer this catastrophe together. In summary, I would like to conclude on this matter by saying that we must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers, because in every religion there exists a deviant faction that raises the flag of religion to kill in its name.Before concluding, would you like to add anything?I again express my heartfelt thanks, my appreciation and my hope – that I will carry with me – of working together, Muslims and Christians, Al-Azhar and the Vatican, to relieve human beings wherever they are, regardless of their religion and belief, and to save them from destructive wars, poverty, ignorance and disease.
May 25 16 3:08 PM
“Our meeting is the message.” With these words, in the library of the Apostolic Palace, at noon yesterday, Francis greeted the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, who at the end of the meeting invited the Pope to the Islamic University of Cairo. The handshake- and then the fraternal embrace between the bishop of Rome and the highest authority of Sunni Islam -is a religious event which took place for the first time at the Vatican. It comes after years in which relations had become tense. The meeting is an event destined to have consequences in the Muslim world: Al-Tayyibis the Imam who is most decidedly averse to the fundamentalism of Islamist preachers of hate, that ideology which cloaks terrorism and violent acts in religiosity by abusing the name of God. Rejection of terrorism At the center of the meeting, which lasted almost thirty minutes and was held in a very cordial atmosphere, was the “common commitment of the authorities and the faithful of the great religions for peace in the world, the rejection of violence and terrorism, and the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, and their protection.” Francis and Al-Tayyib, “noted the great significance of this new meeting in the framework of the dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam. Then they mainly focused on the common commitment of the authorities and the faithful of the great religions for peace in the world, the rejection of violence and terrorism, and the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, and their protection .” An “important” delegation The brief European journey of the Sunni leader, who in the afternoon departed for Paris - the European city hit hardest by the attacks - where he met François Hollande at the Elysée and today will participate in a meeting sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio together with Andrea Riccardi, was designed and built around this visit toVatican City, which had been worked on for a long time, but which was decided upon in the space of a few days. From the airport, Al-Tayyibarrived at the Vatican, accompanied by a high-level delegation, describedas “important”also by the press spokesman of the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi. Traveling along with the great Imam, among others, were Dr. Abbas Shouman, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar; Dr. Mahmaoud Hamdi Zakzouk, director of the Center for Dialogue of Al-Azhar;andJudge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Advisor to Al-Tayyib. Also present was the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Mr. Hatem Seif Elnasr. The case of 2011 The Pope received Al-Tayyib with the ceremonydedicated to the religious authorities. There were no Swiss guardpickets, and the two dialogued while facing each other, on either side of the table. Acting as an interpreter was the private secretary of the Pope, the Egyptian father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid. Francis and the Imam looked at each other in the eye. There was not even the need to rehash the events of recent years. The meeting has in fact closed a phase of iciness, which began in January of 2011, after a bloody attack against the Coptic Christians in Alexandria, when Benedict XVI spoke of the “urgent need for governments of the region to adopt, despite difficulties and threats, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.” Pope Ratzinger was obviously referring to local governments. But his words were translated badly by the media and especially on television in the Arab world, where they were presented as a request for intervention by the West in that area. The birth of the Arabsection of the Secretariat of State The reaction of Al-Azhar and of Egyptwas to consider it an unacceptable political interference. The ambassador to the Holy See was called back to Cairo. When it was finally clear what had actually been said by the Pope, it was too late. And so the Sunni University decided, evoking the speech by Ratzinger in Regensburg five years earlier, to suspend the dialogue with the HolySee. The Vatican decided, at the request of the bishops participating in the Synod on the Middle East, to inaugurate an Arabsection of the Secretariat of State, suchas to providetimely accurate translation of all the papalwords and interventions, thus preventing any associated manipulations. “Isis is not Islam” But all this is in the past, overcome even before the handshake, and remaining marginal in effect at the the interview. The two leaders exchanged views and concerns. Both wish for religions to preach peace, not hatred. They both want the name of God to not be used by those who incite hatred and terror, even that which is preached in mosques. For this reason, Francis reiterated that “the meeting is the message.” Al-Tayyibtold the Pope that Isis is not Islam. He thanked Francis for his messages, particularly for what he had said in the interview on the plane in January 2015 after the massacre of Charlie Hebdo, when he insisted on the need to respect religions. At the end of the interview Francis gave the Imam the ecological encyclical “Laudato sì”, and the Medallion of Peace, which depicts an olive tree that is born from the rock. In the corner room then a meeting was held between the Egyptian delegation and the Vatican, led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
May 25 16 3:11 PM
From the “it’s not easy being pope” files, a recent story in Rome illustrates how Pope Francis faces a challenge these days of doing two big things at once, which don’t always sit well with one another: Reaching out to moderate Muslims in the Middle East, while also raising consciousness about the region’s persecuted Christians.On Monday, Francis hosted the Grand Imam of Cairo’s fabled al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmed el-Tayeb, in the Vatican. The al-Azhar mosque and university complex is considered the most authoritative institution in the Sunni Muslim world, and Monday’s tête-à-tête marked the resumption of dialogue with the Vatican after a five-year chill.(That blockage, by the way, was prompted in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI spoke out about attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt.)To show respect for their guest, Vatican officials took the unusual step of not only arranging an interview for el-Tayeb with both Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano, but also releasing the text of it on Tuesday in an official bulletin of the Holy See Press Office.In the interview, El-Tayeb was laudatory about Pope Francis, calling him a “a man of peace” as well as “a man who respects other religions and shows consideration for their followers.”On one point, however, el-Tayeb seemed indirectly to press not only the pope but broader Christian sentiment. In the course of discussing efforts among Muslims and Christians in the Middle East to reject radicalism and violence, the imam said the following:“Here I would like to say that the issue must not be presented as persecution of Christians in the East,” el-Tayeb said, “but on the contrary there are more Muslim than Christian victims, and we all suffer this catastrophe together.”Somewhat remarkably, none of the journalists present seemed to ask the obvious follow-up question: Does el-Tayeb truly believe there isn’t a specifically anti-Christian streak to many versions of Islamic radicalism – for instance, the more militant quarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in his own Egypt, where Copts routinely complain of harassment, violence and discrimination?Is it plausible to maintain that “persecution of Christians” is the wrong narrative on the Middle East when multiple global bodies, including the U.S. State Department, have acknowledged that a genocide of Christians and other minorities is under way in areas controlled by ISIS?Knowing what to make of el-Tayeb’s statement, however, depends on what he meant by it.It’s certainly true that, statistically speaking, the most numerous victims of Islamic radicalism are other Muslims, mostly because in the zones where it tends to flare up, there are more Muslims than everyone else. When militants launch indiscriminate attacks, the odds generally are that Muslims will be disproportionately represented among the victims.If what el-Tayeb meant is simply that Christians and moderate Muslims in such contexts are basically in the same boat, then it’s no more than a description of the lay of the land.On the other hand, el-Tayeb’s comment could also be read to imply that there is no specific threat to Christians in the Middle East, and more, that it’s unhelpful to the cause of peace and understanding to suggest that there is.If that’s the case, Pope Francis faces a bit of a dilemma.On the one hand, el-Tayeb is precisely the sort of moderate, rational, traditional spiritual authority within Islam who’s ultimately the only hope of taking back the mantle of leadership from outfits such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.Western-educated intellectuals at Cambridge, the Sorbonne and Harvard can hold as many conferences on the “deconstruction of religious superiority” and other such topics as they like, but in the Muslim street, where faith runs deep, only figures such as el-Tayeb can really move the ball.At the same time, Francis has three strong incentives not to back down from denouncing anti-Christian persecution.First, that persecution is an unmistakable reality.The fact militants in groups such as ISIS don’t hate only Christians doesn’t change the fact that anti-Christian vitriol is very much a part of the mix. It also doesn’t change the fact that even when the Muslim majority in a given society isn’t actively lashing out at Christians, they’re often relegated to a sort of second-class citizenship that reflects a deep current of social prejudice.Second, the pope is already on record observing that there are more martyrs today than in any previous period of the Church, that Christians are suffering for the faith all across the planet, and that the various denominations today should be united by an “ecumenism of blood.”It would look strange now to dial down those expressions of concern for the sake of “inter-faith correctness.”Third, if Francis were to soften his language about persecuted Christians, it could be a case of notching an inter-faith gain but an ecumenical loss, since doing so likely would be deeply disappointing to other Christian groups, perhaps especially the Orthodox, who also find themselves in the firing line.As a result, the trick for Francis going forward may be to find a way to say some version of the following to Islamic counterparts such as el-Tayeb: “Yes, we’re in it together, but that doesn’t mean Christians don’t face special threats … and, by the way, it would be good for you to acknowledge it.”Framed that way, Francis might just be able to lay the basis for a real partnership.
Jul 12 16 3:33 PM
CWN - Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, will travel to Egypt soon to meet with leaders of Al Azhar University, the Vatican announced on July 12.The visit will follow up on the May meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad al-Tayyib, the head of Al Azhar University. The purpose of the bishop's visit to Cairo, the Vatican said, will be to explore ways to resume official dialogue between the Vatican and the Egyptian institution.Al Azhar, which is generally recognized as the foremost institution in the Sunni Muslim world, had engaged in regular exchanges with the Holy See until 2011, when the Egyptian clerics broke off relations to protest remarks by Pope Benedict XVI condemning suppression of Christians in Egypt. Plans to resume the regular exchanges were announced earlier this year.
Jul 22 16 4:46 AM
RTE A senior adviser to Pope Francis has said he is worried about the anti-Muslim rhetoric of presumptive US Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.In an interview with RTÉ News, Cardinal Seán O’Malley also warned against scapegoating Muslims following this week's atrocity in Nice and other terrorist attacks on the west.Speaking in Knock, Co Mayo, the cardinal recalled that the Irish were once blamed for America's ills.And he urged Catholics to heed the advice of Pope Francis to strengthen dialogue with Muslims."It’s very easy to stir up resentment and to blame groups of people."I think immigration is such an important issue, requires a lot of reflection. It requires people with wisdom to come together and talk about what is best for the common good."He continued: "All of us need just immigration laws and a way of dealing with immigration that will not dehumanise people".
Jul 22 16 4:52 AM
Amid heightened tensions over ISIS-fueled terror attacks and anti-Muslim rhetoric, a prominent U.S. cardinal says Islam “wants to govern the world” and Americans must decide if they are going to reassert “the Christian origin of our own nation” in order to avoid that fate.Cardinal Raymond Burke, a Rome-based prelate known as an outspoken conservative and critic of Pope Francis’ reformist approach, said in an interview on Wednesday (July 20) that Islam is “fundamentally a form of government.”While Catholic teaching recognizes that all Abrahamic faiths worship the same God, Burke criticized Catholic leaders who, in an effort to be tolerant, have a tendency “to simply think that Islam is a religion like the Catholic faith or the Jewish faith.”“That simply is not objectively the case,” he said.Burke, who was once archbishop of St. Louis, stressed that he did not want to be “disrespectful” of Islam or “generate hostility.”But he said he worries that many people do not understand that, in his view, “when they (Muslims) become the majority in any country they have the duty to submit the whole population to Shariah,” as the Islamic code of law is known.The cardinal is a canon lawyer who headed the Vatican’s court system before Francis named him chaplain of the Knights of Malta, a Rome-based charitable order.Burke was speaking by telephone from his home state of Wisconsin, where he was spending time this summer while doing interviews for a new book, “Hope for the World: To Unite All Things in Christ.” The book is an extended interview with a French journalist and it covers a range of often controversial topics.Speaking to RNS, Burke said that individual Muslims “are lovely people” and can speak “in a very peaceful manner about questions of religion.”“But my point is this: When they become a majority in any country then they have the religious obligation to govern that country. If that’s what the citizens of a nation want, well, then, they should just allow this to go on. But if that’s not what they want, then they have to find a way to deal with it.”He said that in some cities in France and Belgium with large Muslim populations “there are little Muslim states” that are effectively “no-go zones” for government authorities – an assertion that is widely disputed.But Burke claimed “these things aren’t anomalies for Islam. This is the way things are to go. … And if you do understand that and you are not at peace with the idea of being forcibly under an Islamic government, then you have reason to be afraid.”He cited historical examples of famous military clashes between Muslim forces and the forces of Christian nations of Europe, such the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Battle of Vienna in 1683, both of which marked defeats for the Ottoman Empire.“These historical events relate directly with the situation of today. There’s no question that Islam wants to govern the world,” Burke said.When asked how the West should respond, the cardinal did not cite or endorse specific proposals, like those championed by the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other conservatives, to ban or limit Muslims coming into the U.S.“I think the appropriate response,” he said, “is to be firm about the Christian origin of our own nation, and certainly in Europe, and the Christian foundations of the government, and to fortify those.”He said that form of government permits all people to exercise their religious faith – “as long as it’s not against good order” – and “practices that tolerance which follows from Christian charity.”“I think we have to insist on that. We have to say no, our country is not free to become a Muslim state.”Those comments elaborate on an answer that Burke gives in the new book, in which he says of Islam that “the (Catholic) Church really should be afraid of it.”That is a marked contrast to the approach of Francis and most other church leaders, who have called for dialogue with Islam and a welcoming attitude toward Muslim refugees fleeing strife in many lands.Official church teaching has for decades also recognized Islam as an Abrahamic faith whose followers worship the same God as Jews and Christians.Burke has frequently made news with his sharp criticisms of Francis’ pontificate (he once called it “a rudderless ship”) and the pope’s more pastoral approach. The cardinal has also called on church leaders to be more forceful in battling abortion rights and gay marriage and has said the church has become too “feminized.”
Jul 24 16 9:43 AM
The following in Part 2 of interview with Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, conducted by Armin Schwibach and published at kath.net on July 20, 2016. Part 1 of this interview, "The Problem of Europe's Weak Christianity", was published on CWR on July 21st. The interview has been translated for CWR by Michael J. Miller.September 12 will be the tenth anniversary of the “Regensburg Address” by Benedict XVI on “Faith and Reason” at the University of Regensburg. Although on that occasion the Pope had dedicated only a few words to the problem of “Islam” as an introduction to a wide-ranging reflection, they were taken by some of the mainstream media as a pretext to depict Benedict XVI as an “enemy” of Islam with a “Crusader mentality”. The Pope’s real concerns faded into the background. Despite all the accompanying misunderstandings, though, one result was more in-depth conversations between the Catholic Church and high-ranking representatives of Islam. The foundation of these talks was the Pope’s view that interreligious dialogue cannot be theological dialogue but must be intercultural dialogue. Where, in today’s dramatic situation (terrorism, ISIS, the increasing radicalization of Islam, mass immigration especially of young people, the rejection of certain achievements of an enlightened Western culture that has also lost its compass), do you see the opportunity that should be seized, according to the prophetic insight of Benedict XVI?Cardinal Koch: The lecture of Pope Benedict XVI in Regensburg was in fact prophetic, because it called attention to a sore spot in Islam. Of course the talk was not primarily about a conflict with Islam, but rather about the question of the relation between faith and reason, which in the thought of Pope Benedict always includes the Greek mind also. Therefore he spoke mainly about several waves of de-Hellenization in the Reformation, in liberal theology and in today’s encounter with the diversity of cultures. Pope Benedict’s lecture was prophetic especially in two respects: On the one hand, even in interreligious dialogue there must be the courage to engage in intellectual, rational argument. In this regard, the Christian-Islamic conversation has a lot of catching up to do. For example, nowadays some people like to talk about Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the three Abrahamic religions, while at the same time hiding the fact that their ways of understanding Abraham are quite different. The central point of the intellectual argument is what Islam considers to be the original sin of Christianity, namely the association of another person with God. For Islam, to say that God has a Son is unacceptable. The dialogue cannot disregard this fundamental difference. Rather, the topic must be addressed directly, so as not to reinforce latent hostilities. Within the context of his lecture, Pope Benedict XVI also got around to speaking about the relation between religion and violence, and he demanded that faith must be compatible with reason. Most importantly, he expressed his conviction that acting irrationally contradicts God’s nature. This is connected also with his central message that the twin sister of religion is peace and in no instance violence. When we are forced today to witness how much violence and terror is perpetrated in the name of religion, then we experience first-hand how prophetic those statements by Pope Benedict XVI were ten years ago in Regensburg. With his lecture, Benedict XVI was able to initiate an incisive dialogue, which was taken up by various Muslim scholars, and with that he made possible a new encounter between Christianity and Islam. For dialogue and encounter cannot be separated from each other. The immediate encounter between representatives of different religions is the prerequisite for the possibility of starting a dialogue at all. It would be problematic, then, to remain at the level of encounter and never to get to a more in-depth argument about substantial matters, too; the purpose of working through the perennial problems is to arrive at a new form of coexistence. This is what Pope Benedict wanted to kick off. Even though this was scarcely noticed at first, and his statement in Regensburg unfortunately sparked an irrational escalation of violence, later on there was after all a response to the real inquiry made by Pope Benedict XVI, and this is worth developing further. Covenant between Love and Reason is the title of a newly published book that you wrote on the legacy of the magisterium of Benedict XVI, which is not just the legacy of a Pope, but the legacy of one of the greatest theologians of our time on the Chair of Saint Peter. Recently Pope Francis, in a foreword to a book, compared the ministry and teaching of his predecessor to that of Leo the Great, a Doctor of the Church. In discussing the comprehensive thought of Benedict XVI, what idea or themes do you try to emphasize in particular? Can you agree with the motto, “Caritas et Misericordia in Veritate” [“Charity and Mercy in the Truth”], and if so: how does Benedict XVI describe this relation?Cardinal Koch: I am very happy about the Foreword by Pope Francis and his speech in the Sala Clementina. I hope that the way in which Pope Francis honored Benedict XVI will be perceived by the public as a sign of their spiritual closeness, despite the constant attempts to play them off against each other. On the contrary, in his recently published interview with Jacques Servais about the doctrine of justification, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that for him it is a sign of the times that the idea of God’s mercy is taking an increasingly predominant place and that Pope Francis is thoroughly aligned with the tradition of the centrality of Divine Mercy. Conversely, Pope Francis, in his conversation with Andrea Tornielli, referred also to Pope Benedict, for whom God’s mercy is the essential core of the Gospel, the very Name of God, so to speak. In this sense there is a foundational continuity, which you expressed in the formula “Caritas et misericordia in veritate”; people should become much more clearly aware of this. Finally, the speech that the Benedict XVI gave at the celebration of his sixty-fifth priestly jubilee in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace once again was centered on the Eucharist, the new creation through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, the “transubstantiation” of the world. Is Benedict XVI the “Eucharistic Pope”? Cardinal Koch: That short but substantial speech by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in the Sala Clementina contained the essence of what he communicated as his message. You summarized this in the concept of the “Eucharistic Pope”. In fact, the Eucharist has played a central role since the beginning of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological work. Already in his doctoral dissertation on the concept of Church in the writings of Saint Augustine he ventured to synthesize the idea of the Church as the people of God with the understanding that it is the Body of Christ, in the sense that the Church should be understood as the people of God that lives on the Body of Christ. For the Eucharist is not just a sacrament that the Church celebrates; rather, it constitutes the Church, as Pope Saint John Paul II later expressed this view in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Next, the Eucharist plays an important role in Ratzinger’s understanding of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Again and again Benedict XVI pointed out that the primacy should not be understood primarily in jurisdictional terms, but rather in terms of the Eucharist. This view, that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not an external addition to Eucharistic ecclesiology but one of its intrinsic elements, is naturally foundational and helpful especially in the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches. Thereby Pope Benedict XVI built an important bridge to the Churches of Orthodoxy. The central importance of the Eucharist in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI reveals also the inmost core of the liturgy. Since the Eucharist has been given to us as a gift and since we thank God in it, we ourselves do not celebrate the liturgy, but God does. This explains the primacy of the katabatic [from-above] dimension of the liturgy, which of course calls for its anabatic [from-below] dimension as man’s response to God’s salvific initiative. This Eucharistic indebtedness is evident also in Ratzinger’s understanding of divine revelation, which we cannot invent; rather it is given to us gratuitously, and we must ponder it. Hence Benedict XVI sees his theology as a reflection on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and thus as a science of belief. Or, as he himself once put it: “Just as I learned to understand the New Testament as the soul of theology, so too I saw the liturgy as its life-giving soil, without which it would necessarily dry up.” Consequently, the centrality of the Word of God and of the liturgy can be understood correctly only in terms of the Eucharistic dimension of the faith. Handing on and keeping alive such essential insights of the magnificent theology and rich magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI is the purpose of my book, which by its title, Covenant between Love and Reason, intends to point to the core concerns of Pope Benedict XVI.
Jul 31 16 4:48 AM
Muslims go to Catholic Mass across France to show solidarityPARIS (AP) -- In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on Sunday attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and beyond.Reporters on the scene said that between 100 and 200 Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few kilometers (miles) from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed by two teenage attackers on Tuesday."We're very touched," Archbishop Dominique Lebrun told broadcaster BFMTV. "It's an important gesture of fraternity . They've told us, and I think they're sincere, that it's not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel."Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: "Love for all. Hate for none."Similar interfaith gatherings were repeated elsewhere in France, as well as in neighboring Italy.At Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, said repeatedly that Muslims want to live in peace."The situation is serious," he told BFMTV. "Time has come to come together so as not to be divided."In Italy, the secretary general of the country's Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino, spoke from the altar in the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel next to Naples' Duomo cathedral. He said there was a "need of dialogue, more affirmation of shared values of peace, of solidarity, of love, out of respect for our one God, merciful and compassionate."Three imams also attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row.Mohammed ben Mohammed, a member of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, said that he called on faithful in his sermon Friday "to report anyone who may be intent to damage society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.""Mosques are not a place in which fanatics become radicalized. Mosques do the opposite of terrorism: They diffuse peace and dialogue," he added.Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni thanked Italian Muslims for their participation, saying they "are showing their communities the way of courage against fundamentalism."Like in France, Italy is increasing its supervision of mosques. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told the Senate this week that authorities were scrutinizing mosque financing and working with the Islamic community to ensure that imams study in Italy, preach in Italian and are aware of Italy's legal structure.
Aug 1 16 4:39 AM
The Pope’s response to the violence unleashed by Islamic terrorists is not “do-goodery”. It is a “powerful and determined response”. The gesture of Muslims who decided to show their solidarity with Christians in the wake of the savage assassination of Fr. Jacques Hamel, is "an innovative and important sign," says Bruno Forte, a theologian and archbishop of the Italian archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto. Before catching his flight from Krakow to Italy, after the World Youth Day celebrations, he spoke to Vatican Insider about the presence of Muslim faithful in churches.Yesterday, there were Muslims who attended mass in many churches to show their solidarity with Christians. What is the meaning of this gesture?“It is an innovative and important gesture because this has never really happened as a common, public gesture. It means that many of the various branches of the Islamic community want to publicly express their solidarity with Christians who have been hit hard by barbaric incidents such as the killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel. The gesture of these Muslim faithful is proof of what Francis has said: violence committed in the name of God, using the name of God in vain, is never justified. The true jihad is the battle within oneself to ensure that the good triumphs.”Some are calling for strong reactions against Islam in response to jihadist terrorism. But the Pope has stressed that the war underway is not a religious war and has told young people that hatred cannot be conquered with more hatred. Why?
“I am deeply convinced that the Pope is giving the world the only message that is truly productive. He reminds us that responding to violence with more violence only generates more hatred, more death. If, instead, we respond with mercy and forgiveness, we have a chance of building a more just and fraternal world. I believe that the way indicated to us by Francis is the only way to achieve this.”Doesn’t the evangelical response to events such as the ones in Nice, Munich and Rouen risk coming across as “do-goodery”?“This is the accusation made against Pope Francis and against everyone who like him – myself included – insist that the response to violence cannot be violence. Do-goodery is a defeatist attitude. What the Pope is suggesting, however, is a strong and determined attitude, the attitude of someone who knows that in the end, force, violence and closed-mindedness only bring more pain and more death. Dialogue and forgiveness that is given and received, on the other hand, over time can lead to peaceful co-existence and the building of a better world. So this choice involves anything but surrender, passivity, fear, quietism or underestimation of the problem. It is a powerful response despite not resorting to force. It is inspired by the Gospel and is destined to bear fruits.”
Aug 2 16 7:22 AM
As Tensions Mount, Avoiding a Clash of ReligionsPope Francis reminds us that Christians are not engaged in a war with Islam but with extremismWhat on earth is happening to us? Optimism isn’t an easy position to embrace these days. Much of our world is currently more broken, more ill-at-ease than ever before. Not only have we in Europe increasingly experienced the sorts of murderous atrocities that people elsewhere have had to live with, and die with, for years; but our public life, both in Britain and the United States, is turning ever more sour, vicious and confrontational.Dialogue is a sign of weakness to some. The online world leads us back to our encampments, comfortably in conversation with only those of like mind, reinforcing and confirming the views that we already held. We visit the websites or, for those who still read them, subscribe only to those newspapers or magazines that mirror our own opinions and attitudes. And when attitudes become hardened they convert to prejudices, difficult or downright impossible to challenge in any creative manner, still less with generosity.When that happens, we begin to lose the ability to see that which is not broken, that which remains generous and other-centered, yet, sadly, less newsworthy or sensational. To be a discerning person, a goal for every follower of Christ, is to see and acknowledge that so much is fractured yet resist being dragged down into the morass where we will no longer be able to discern what remains good and true, where we have lost the ability to distinguish the superficial from the relevant.The martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, an elderly priest in northern France, is shocking by any decent standards. The young adults who committed the murder, slitting the throat of the 84-year-old priest as he celebrated Mass, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. Similar claims are made in other parts of the world that have witnessed other atrocities, just as shocking. But is there an inherent link to Islam? That does not seem to square with the frequent assertions of non-radical Muslim leaders, in British cities and elsewhere, that these indoctrinated extremists do not represent the mainstream of the religion. If the link is extrinsic to Islam, by definition it comes from a source outside the faith and thus does not contain or reflect essential teaching.When Christians are, quite correctly, horrified and outraged by violent attacks on our co-religionists, it remains important not to condemn a whole faith. Pope Francis just said, in an in-flight interview returning from World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, that what we are experiencing is “not a war of religions,” as many secularists like to claim.To avoid being drawn into just such a religious war, Christians, who feel deeply the suffering of the victims, must continue to discern the meaning and implications of these events. Up to now, war has implied two opposing sides, but neither Islam nor Christianity is attacking the other. There is great danger in any potential delusion that this is a war between the faiths.In the days following Father Hamel’s murder, news emerged that he had been a vigorous protagonist for interfaith dialogue in Normandy. It further emerged that this humble priest and his parish had made land available for the local Muslims on which to build their mosque. That is worth repeating as often as possible.Most of us have signed up to the view that a healthy and vigorous dialogue between the church and the culture is an absolute requirement of being a Christian today. No fuga saeculi (“flight from the world”) can be our response. The murderers of Father Jacques in France were blinded by an ideology so strong that they had lost any sense of humanity.Pope Francis concluded World Youth Day with an impassioned entreaty for a “new humanity,” urging his huge congregation to “help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, […] to fight peaceably for honesty and justice.” If we attain the virtues by practicing them, where should we start? Francis suggests this: “to believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded.”
Aug 7 16 4:28 AM
On Islam and violence, Pope + Patriarch = Full StoryThe hard truth about Islam today is that it’s alternately both peaceful and violent, that it projects both tolerance and hatred, and Christian leaders probably should do their best to hold both together when they talk to, and about, Muslims.When he visited Assisi on Thursday, Pope Francis had a brief unscheduled encounter with the Imam of Perugia, Abdel Qader Mohammed, who thanked the pontiff for denying that Islam is a religion of violence during an in-flight press conference July 31 on the way back to Rome from his trip to Poland.(It’s a clear sign of the times, by the way, that an Italian city in the region of Umbria, the land of St. Francis, now requires its own imam. For better or worse, followers of different faiths are increasingly fated to live together.)“A heartfelt thanks to Pope Francis for his closeness to us Muslims,” Mohammed said, according to the official Franciscan magazine in Assisi.One day before, I had been in Toronto, Canada, to cover the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, where one picked up a very different reaction.The Knights have made defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East a major point of emphasis, and a number of bishops from the region were on hand, including prelates from Syria, Iraq and Pakistan - all places, of course, where the Christian minority faces lethal threats from Muslim radicals.Speaking with those bishops, several confided that the pope’s rhetoric on Islam had not played well with their people, and some said Christians back home felt angry and betrayed.In a major address on Wednesday, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the Syriac Catholic Church said that while the Qur’an does contain verses that speak of peace, it also has others that clearly endorse violence, and that when young men are required to memorize those passages in Islamic schools, “it won’t be easy to prevent them from becoming terrorists or killers.”In general, Younan seemed pessimistic about the prospects for an internal reform within Islam, arguing that the only way to keep Christians safe is for major world powers to apply political and economic pressure on Middle Eastern regimes to impose some semblance of order.After his speech was finished, I jokingly said to a couple of colleagues that if one were so inclined, it could easily be spun as “Patriarch v. Pope.”In reality, however, one probably should view the pope on the plane and the patriarch at the podium as complementary, not contradictory. In effect, each delivered a piece of a bigger picture vis-à-vis Islam in the early 21st century.On the pope’s side of the ledger, it’s a fact that the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are neither terrorists nor terrorist sympathizers, they do not regard their faith as requiring violence, and they’re as appalled by the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the rest, as everyone else.When my colleague Inés San Martín and I were in Nigeria last summer, for instance, we heard stories over and over again of Muslims and Christians standing together - Muslims who would surround Christian churches on Sundays to keep worshipers safe, in effect acting as human shields, while Christians would return the favor at moderate mosques, which are every bit as much a target for Boko Haram militants.Further, Pope Francis is also undoubtedly conscious that there’s really no alternative to believing that Islam is capable of peace and tolerance. Otherwise, the only logical conclusion is a permanent cycle of conflict and bloodshed between the world’s two largest religious traditions - together, Christians and Muslims are almost 4 billion people, more than half the total global population.Younan, however, made an equally valid point, which is that there’s a cancer inside Islam today which has made its radical form the world’s leading manufacturer of anti-Christian hatred.It’s not, by the way, that persecution is somehow more egregious when it happens to Christians than to anyone else. Yet in the roughly 50 nations of the world with a Muslim majority, and especially in the Middle East, Christians are especially vulnerable - in part because of history, in part because of the tendency to lash out at them for perceived grievances at the West.(That’s true even though in most cases, Christians actually have deeper roots in the local culture than their oppressors.)Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, became visibly emotional at several points during the Knights’ convention, saying, “Our people are terrorized, and we’re in big danger of disappearing.”The last time I had seen Jeanbart was in April 2015, immediately after Islamic State forces had unleashed a ferocious round of rocket attacks on a Christian neighborhood in Aleppo that left 15 people dead, including a family of four Greek Melkites crushed to death when their apartment building collapsed. One of Jeanbart’s grim responsibilities was to find a suitable spot to bury them, since Aleppo’s Christian cemetery was ringed by snipers.It was hardly Jeanbart’s first taste of tragedy. In October 2012, his priest secretary and protégé, Father Imad Daher, was nearly killed when a bomb exploded near the archbishop’s residence. Daher had to be helicoptered to Beirut for the first of seven surgeries, which, among other things, cost him an eye.Under circumstances like that, it’s easy to understand why irenic references to Islam as a “religion of peace” rankle, because that simply isn’t the daily experience of figures such as Younan and Jeanbart.The hard truth about Islam today is that it’s alternately both peaceful and violent, that it projects both tolerance and hatred towards Christians and other minorities. To ignore either end of those contrasts is to deny reality, and Christian leaders probably should do their best to hold both together when they talk to, and about, Muslims.Both Francis and Younan, by the way, obviously know this. Francis has talked repeatedly about the astonishing numbers of new Christian martyrs today, and referred to a vast “ecumenism of blood” created by persecution, while Younan is well aware of Syria’s long history of peaceful co-existence … indeed, it’s precisely the loss of that tradition that makes the present situation so agonizing.In other words, it’s not a matter of choosing between the pope’s line or the patriarch’s from last week. Instead, the proper formula is probably this: “Pope + Patriarch = The Full Story.”
Aug 22 16 6:17 AM
King of Morocco calls for common front to counter jihadist fanaticismMohammed VI’s speech to fellow-citizens living abroad and the letter Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi wrote to the Pope are encouraging signs from the Muslim worldThe King of Morocco has invited Muslims, Christians and Jews to combat “fanaticism and hatred” together. The words the Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, addressed to his country and in particular to the five million Moroccans living abroad, are significant. “With the proliferation of spread obscurantism in the name of religion, all Muslims, Christians and Jews, must draw up a common front to counter bigotry, hatred and withdrawal in all forms,” the king urged. Mohammed VI called on fellow-citizens to be patient, to defend peace and to live in harmony with others. He also asked them to “continue to uphold the values of their religion as well as their ancient traditions”: this is the best way to respond to the jihadist phenomenon which is “alien to them”. “We strongly condemn the killing of innocent people,” the King of Morocco added, in reference to the elderly French priest who had his throat slit inside his own church. The monarch described the assassination of “a priest inside a church” as “unforgiveable madness”. “Whoever incites murder and aggression” using the Quran to do so, “is not a Muslim”, Mohammed said. “Terrorists who act in the name of Islam are individuals who have been led astray and are condemned to eternal hell”. Finally, the king observed that jihadism “takes advantage of some young Muslims, especially in Europe, exploiting their ignorance of the Arabic language and true Islam to pass on false and wrong messages and promises”. Morocco’s monarch spoke out about the responsibility of “many Islamic groups and institutions” which claim they represent “real Islam” but instead encourage the “spread of an extremist ideology”.The king’s speech came just as the contents of a letter sent to Francis by Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi of Qom were made public. In his letter, the Shiite Muslim leader thanked the Pope for his words on terrorism during his recent visit to Poland. The Pope had spoken against identifying fundamentalist violence with the Islamic religion. Interestingly, in his letter, Shirazi gives importance to the stances taken by religious leaders worldwide against every violation of human dignity, especially when this is committed in the name of religion. He recalls his condemnation of Fr. Hamel’s killing, describing it as a “merciless terrorist attack”, using the word “takfir”, which in Islam refers to the most extreme cruelty. Ayatollah is realistic as he recalls that jihadist groups have not yet been destroyed because they are backed by “arrogant powers”. This was a hint at the role played by those who have bankrolled and financed terrorist groups to fulfil political and economic interests, using them as useful allies in wars only to then realise that they have in fact created uncontrollable monsters.These two stances add to the pronouncement of Al Azhar and to the initiative of Muslims in France and Italy, who have shown their solidarity with Christians following the savage killing of Fr. Hamel.
Sep 3 16 5:43 AM
Cardinal Burke, Islam and the CrusadesCardinal Raymond Burke is evidently keeping busy by promoting a new book, and to that end he has been serving his interviewers the reddest meat it has to offer: attacks on Islam that aim to set the church back to before Vatican II.Actually, very far back, since the cardinal is glorifying the Crusades. In one recent interview, he was quoted as saying that “nothing has changed in the Islamic agenda from prior times in which our ancestors in the faith have had to fight to save Christianity. And why? Because they saw that Islam was attacking sacred truths, including the sacred places of our redemption.”Religion was certainly an element of the Crusades, but historians have found the motives for the warfare, which spanned centuries, to be complex.Burke approaches Islam with a simplistic, Trump-like bravado: He has personally studied it! (Yeah, sure ... and does Burke now have a doctorate in medieval history or Islamic studies, that he should be so sure about his pronouncements on the Crusades and Islam?)So he supposedly knows better than the assembled bishops of the Second Vatican Council: “To say that we worship the same God as stated in Nostra Aetate, which is not a dogmatic document, (Here we are again with the deplorable tactic of denigrating a particular document, either as something that isn't part of the Magisterium (Amoris Laetitia), or in this case, as not a dogmatic document - and therefore, not something that all Catholics are required to obey.) I think is highly questionable … How can the God that we know, a God fundamentally of love, St. John says `God is love,’ be the same God that commands and demands of Muslims to slaughter infidels and to establish their rule by violence.” (Has Burke conveniently forgotten the Inquisition, where the Church burned alive people who were considered heretics? Or how about those "Christian kings" who took part in the Crusades, believing that God wanted them to wrest the Holy Land from the infidel Muslims, no matter how many they slaughtered?)Burke has reduced Islam and the “Islamic agenda” to its most extreme elements – the terrorists who follow a virulent and relatively modern variant of an ancient faith.At Crux, we see the claim that “Muslims need to hear” Cardinal Burke’s views so that they understand not all Christians approach Islam with the openness that Pope Francis does.Somehow I think they already know. The Crux column credits Burke with a “willingness to say things that others think,” casting his outspokenness as a virtue. (There's outspokenness, and there's plain, old-fashioned recklessness.) But another way to look at it is that Burke is saying things that others with limited understanding of Islam may suspect but are wise enough to hold back.For Burke is playing into the hands of the most radical and vile elements claiming to fight under an Islamic banner – those who contend the West is pursuing a new Crusade, supposed justification for holy war and a host of atrocities. (Well, no one ever said that Burke was very smart - or perceptive.) President George Bush's errant reference to a "crusade" at the start of the Iraq war quickly made its way into Islamist propaganda (I once heard a Catholic bishop in Egypt roar in anger over that remark). To have a prince of the church say such things: it's news, yes, but news with the potential to make life even worse for the Christians of the Middle East. (Not that Burke cares a whit. He's too busy trying to yank the Church back to the era of the Council of Trent!)
Oct 10 16 4:36 PM
Pope Francis will receive a delegation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in the Vatican on November 3, according to French media sources.The five members representing the CFCM include President Anwar Kbibech, the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the organization, Abdallah Zekri. They will meet with the Pope in a private audience after meeting with the prelate in charge of relations with Islam, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.“I am very happy to meet the Pope because he is a man of dialogue and a man of peace,” Adballah Zekri said.A national elected body, the CFCM is the official Islamic interlocutor with the French state in the regulation of Muslim activities, and the de facto representative of all French Muslims before the government.This meeting was reportedly organized on behalf of the Vatican by the French cardinals to strengthen interreligious dialogue between the two faiths, especially in the aftermath of a number of Islamist terror attacks. The French cardinals told the CFCM that the Pope had particularly appreciated the institution’s firm positions following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two terrorists belonging to the Islamic State.The CFCM delegation will travel to Rome on November 2 for a reception at France’s embassy in Rome. On November 3, they will meet with the Vatican Cardinal in charge of relations with Islam, followed by the private audience with Pope Francis.France has been particularly hard hit by attacks from Islamic terrorists. Besides the execution of Father Hamel, militants of the Islamic State have carried out two major attacks in Paris, as well as the slaughter of 84 civilians in the south of France as they celebrated Bastille Day.
Nov 8 16 5:06 AM
Vatican bishop lays out 'roadmap' for dialogue with Islam Vatican City, Nov 8, 2016 / 12:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There is a roadmap for dialogue with Islam, and its three landmarks are peace, justice and education, says a leading bishop on the subject.Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, explained: “on a theological level, differences still remain, and they are known. Beyond any theological difference, however, we take each other’s hand, to build together the common good.”There is a “diverse and rich dialogue with many Islamic institutions,” the bishop told CNA Nov. 4.Bishop Ayuso discussed how the dialogue with Islamic institutions is progressing. He gave special mention to the restoration of relations between the Holy See and the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, which, along with its companion university, is the most prominent institution of Sunni Islam.Al-Azhar had broken relations with the Holy See back in 2011, when the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb labeled Pope Benedict XVI’s reaction to Christmas attacks on Alexandria churches as “interference” in Egyptian internal affairs.Only this year has the Holy See succeeded in restoring dialogue with this institution. Bishop Ayuso made a first visit to Al-Azhar on Feb. 16 and met with the Mosque’s deputy imam, Abbas Shuman.Then the Grand Imam el Tayeb came to visit Pope Francis in the Vatican on May 23. There, he decried Islamic extremist attacks against both Christians and Muslims.Bishop Ayuso made follow-up visits to Al-Azhar July 13 and Oct. 23.The aim of these frequent visits is to prepare a meeting in Rome to mark the official restoration of dialogue between the Holy See and Al-Azhar. This meeting should take place in April 2017, though no official date has been set.“The dialogue we are entertaining with Al-Azhar,” Bishop Ayuso stressed, “is aimed at organizing joint initiatives to promote peace.”This is the first landmark of the map for dialogue, the bishop said. He added that “in our initiatives, we will focus on a revision of the religious discourse and on how this religious discourse is renewed within our communities, both Muslim and Christian.” This is the commitment for peace, as “a new narrative would be able to prevent many dark paths recently taken in the name of religions.”Justice, which is “the twin sister of peace,” is the second landmark on the roadmap, said Bishop Ayuso. This means that “we have to insist on much in relations among religions, so that these good relations will lead everyone to have the sacrosanct right to citizenship for everyone.”“Members of every religion,” Bishop Ayuso underscored, “must all feel citizenship in their country, so that they can take part in building the common good and the social good.”This is why Al-Azhar and the Holy See are called “to work together on the issue of religious freedom,” the bishop said.The third landmark of this roadmap is education. The bishop said ignorance is the reason for many evils, adding “we always experience how great religious ignorance is.”Religious leaders “are called to undertake again within their community the commitment to give a sound religious education,” the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue maintained.“This education should be founded on the respect for the other person, as well as giving information on the other person that can enrich personal identity,” since “identity must always be preserved and valued.”Bishop Ayuso spoke with CNA amid an international symposium sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the International Dialogue Centre, and the Lebanon-based Adyan Foundation.The symposium, titled “Mercy as a Universal Value,” took place Nov. 3-4 at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Pope Francis delivered opening remarks to the representatives of different religions gathered there. He decried acts of violence, kidnappings, and terrorism, especially in the name of religion.Bishop Ayuso stressed that the effort aimed to provide a place to share different religious views on mercy so that religious communities can “collaborate together to serve humanity.”
Nov 9 16 7:01 AM
French bishops maintain “dialogue in truth with Islam”In a meeting with French bishops at Lourdes on Tuesday, Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran called for a dialogue with Islam "based on truth." “We are condemned to dialogue.” The message is not new but it appears so essential at the moment to Pope Francis and his right hand man responsible for dialogue with Muslims that the latter took the initiative on Tuesday November 8 to join the French bishops at their Plenary Assembly in Lourdes.In the wake of a series of attacks in France plus the assassination of Fr Jacques Hamel this summer, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, wished to discuss the issues and fears raised by the rise in Islamic terrorism.Avoiding both irenicism and naivety, the cardinal and the bishops directly addressed the issues in order to present a lucid portrait of the “grave crisis” that Islam is experiencing, including the violence of certain currents, the difficulty of certain passages of the Koran instrumentalized by ISIS and the consequences of this context for dialogue, which has been greatly “weakened” in spite of the progress made in recent years.Pope Benedict’s “prophetic” Regensburg speech“Islam and Christianity are both religions with a universal vocation so it’s normal that there is friction. However, the difference is that what we propose, they impose,” Cardinal Tauran noted during a press conference in which he characterized Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech as “prophetic” in the light of recent events and the “Muslim groups sent to commit these attacks.”“Violence and religion are irreconcilable,” he insisted.“This feeds fears in the Christian community as well as raising real questions that we need to address,” added Bishop Jean-Marc Aveline, auxiliary of Marseille.Here, the bishops identified the difficulties in the neighborhoods of various cities, particularly the refusal by some Muslims to meet Catholics, let alone dialogue with them.Bishop Pascal Delannoy of Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis region) spoke of his concerns at the “rejection of young Catholics by some young Muslims, who warned that they they ‘will finish in hell’.”“When young people hear this, they have no desire to enter into dialogue… While there is no mosque in Seine Saint Denis that identifies itself as salafist, islamist currents are present in these communities, who also mistrust these currents,” he warned.“They are conscious of the threat weighing on them. People speak too generally of Islam as a global phenomenon whereas they should be seeking to support moderate Muslims,” he noted.Bishops surprised by the initiative of Anwar Kbibech“Having said that, we owe it in the name of the Gospel and citizenship to be men of peace,” emphasized Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry, president of the Council for Interreligious Relations.“Not by looking at the situation politically in terms of power relations but evangelically in terms of civil peace.”Despite the tense climate, the bishops praised the Muslim response to the assassination of Fr Hamel. Indeed, the bishops themselves were taken aback by the initiative of Anwar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Religion, who invited Muslims to show their solidarity with Christians by visiting their churches.Some of these meetings were “quite unprecedented.”“Even those who are used to dialogue with Muslims in Marseille have told me that they had met new interlocutors whom they did not know previously,” commented Bishop Aveline.“This greatly surprised many priests, who did not always know how to react to the spontaneous presence of Muslims in their churches.”What to make of these small unexpected steps that are all the more courageous given that these Muslims may run the risk themselves of being designated as unbelievers by some of the more extreme currents?“We certainly feel that something new is emerging but we don’t yet know what to do about it,” admitted Bishop Aveline.“As Catholics and Muslims, we are concerned to pursue dialogue both as a response to those who wish to lock us into this violence and in order not to become trapped ourselves,” explained Bishop Delannoy.“It’s either dialogue, or it’s war,” Cardinal Tauran emphasized. But this supposes a dialogue based “on truth” and that dares to ask Muslims fundamental questions, the cardinal said.“We need to remember the aspects that are essential to us, including freedom of conscience, and the option to freely choose one’s religion,” emphasized Bishop Delannoy.“However, this is only possible in an encounter that builds a climate of confidence and fraternity.”
Nov 10 16 4:42 AM
This year is the tenth anniversary of perhaps the most controversial papal speech of the last half-century, an address given by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006, which sparked a firestorm of protest across the Islamic world.In the opening section of the speech, Benedict cited a 14th century dialogue between a Byzantine emperor and a Persian, in which the emperor said provocatively: “Show me just what Mohammad 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.”Taken in tandem with Benedict’s preexisting image as an arch-conservative and cultural warrior, the citation was shot out of a media cannon with deadly consequences. An Italian nun was shot to death in Somalia, churches were firebombed on the Gaza strip, and the pontiff was burned in effigy in the streets of Ankara.When he traveled to Turkey just two months later, he was constrained to send signals of friendship with Muslims at every turn, and his spokesmen were almost desperate to insist the pontiff did not intend to launch a new crusade.Among Vatican-watchers, the speech was taken as a massive stumble, perhaps indicative of a traditionalist pope out of touch with the ethos of inter-religious respect that had already become official Catholic teaching.Ten years later, there’s a mounting sense that perhaps the world owes Benedict an apology. The rise of the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other extremist Islamic movements, and the continual waves of terror and barbarism they generate, has created a sense that perhaps it wasn’t Benedict who stumbled by pointing out that Islam has a problem - perhaps it’s Muslims who haven’t responded to the problem adequately.Lost in the noise, however, is the central thing to know about the Regensburg speech, to wit: It’s not really about Islam at all.In the 4,500-word address, Benedict devoted barely three paragraphs to the remark quoted above from Manuel II Paeologus, which he used to set up his reflections on the topic, which was “Faith, Reason and the University.” He was trying to make a point about the importance of religion never parting company with reason, and could just as easily have taken his cautionary tale from Hinduism, Buddhism, or, for that matter, Christianity.Benedict’s real target in the speech is the West, identifying two worrying trends he saw (and no doubt still sees) in Western thought - one inside the Christian church, and the other in the broader culture.He devoted a significant chunk of the Regensburg speech to tracing the history of efforts at “de-hellenization,” meaning to suggest that the use of ancient Greek concepts of reason in the early Church was really just an historical accident, and there’s nothing essential about them to the Christian faith.Benedict insists that salvation history doesn’t work that way, and that it was providential that the Biblical faith and Greek thought intersected. It marked a fundamental choice by Christianity, he believes, to recognize that reason is intrinsic to God’s nature, and that to act irrationally is therefore to break with God’s will.Benedict was even more critical of trends in Western culture to regard only the so-called “hard sciences” as truly rational, meaning objective, and to relegate everything else - including morality - to the realm of personal preference and choice.That’s a disaster, he argued, because it leaves no basis for moral consensus on anything, and thus makes building a real community impossible. If there’s no objective good, then what’s to stop the powerful from abusing the weak, what’s to stop a tyrannical majority from oppressing a minority, and on and on?He also, by the way, argues that the exclusion of ethics and faith from the realm of reason also damages inter-religious dialogue, because “the world’s most profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion … as an attack on their most profound convictions.”That, surely, is not the rhetoric of a crusader.Finally, Benedict argues that there are certain points empirical science presuppose, such as the rational mathematical structure of the universe, that it can’t explain by itself, and it’s not irrational to ask how things got that way in the first place.“The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby,” he said, calling for the “courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur.”Put as simply as possible, Benedict was arguing at Regensburg that the choice for faith is not irrational, and that currents in the West that style it as such are the real enemies of enlightenment and progress.One can dismiss that argument out of hand, challenge it on certain points, or decide it needs more reflection. What you can’t do, however, is present it as a treatise on Islam and its discontents, because the discontents Benedict was worried about are percolating in a very different part of the world and a different cultural milieu.On this tenth anniversary of the Regensburg speech, much of the world may indeed owe Benedict an apology, but it’s not for disagreeing with his argument a decade ago … it’s for missing his point entirely.
Nov 21 16 1:41 AM
Ten years ago Pope Benedict XVI took to the dais of the University of Regensburg’s Aula Magna to offer a few “memories and reflections.” The speech, which became widely known simply as Regensburg, has long been dismissed as an infamous gaffe in a generally misunderstood pontificate; it was leveled as incendiary and undiplomatic in solemn rebukes from leaders like Jacques Chirac; it sparked firebombings and effigies; death threats from the Mujahideen Army against the pontiff; and generally did little to enhance Benedict’s reputation. But how much of Regensburg was actually read, understood, and properly digested, and what was its overall intention?Contrary to the ensuing censure of the Pope and his speech, the 79-year-old pontiff knew exactly what he was doing. “As I said at the time,” stated Fr. James V. Schall, SJ about its lasting legacy, “this address is one of the world's most penetrating analysis ever made of intelligence and the consequences of the willful refusal to face its truth.” If really taken to heart, Regensburg at one point may have been the touchstone for a more truthful world—and still might be, a decade later.The address consists of 4,000 words and 16 paragraphs—one paragraph is for the introduction, three on Islam, and two its conclusion, leaving ten paragraphs devoted to the issue of “reason.” Yet, this issue of reason and its relationship to God is rarely the topic of debate or discussion about the address. That is reserved almost entirely for the short section about Islam, particularly Benedict’s citation of a 14th century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II, a quotation which the Pope himself prefaced as one of “startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable.” The emperor’s statement—“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”—is the most cited passage, and the one sometimes leveled against Pope Ratzinger as his own.The denunciation that followed exposed a great deal about the jittery cultural unease about not only Islam, which continues unresolved to this day, but also the deficiencies of an increasingly atheistic public worldview. “I think the problem is [Benedict] may have still been thinking like a German academic and perhaps forgot that there were people outside the room who were listening,” Jesuit commentator Fr. Thomas Reese suggested a few days later, summarizing one critique that Joseph Ratzinger the man, as Benedict the pope, could and should only limit his thought to perfunctory papal addresses. That the matter in question—“not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature,” in other words, the opposite of reason, namely violence—was labeled insensitive and provoked scorn is itself more paradoxical than disputable, as Lars Brownworth noted in his 2009 book Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization: “Benedict XVI [argued] that violence had no place in faith. Ironically, the speech unleashed a firestorm of controversy in the Middle East, resulting in the destruction of some churches and several deaths.” Even Benedict sought to moderate tension the Sunday after Regensburg: “I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.” But should the Pope have apologized for being magnificent? At the time of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015, Dr. Samuel Gregg recalled Regensburg, something not a few thinkers were doing with frequency in light of such attacks: “Many professional interfaith dialoguers don’t like the Regensburg address because it highlighted how much of their discussion was utterly peripheral to the main game,” he said. Now in the ten years since 2006, in the wake of the Arab Spring, expanding terrorist attacks, a media blitzkrieg by Islamic State touting beheadings of Westerners, Coptic Christians and others, global financial chaos, a Europe struggling in its own narrative, a United States enduring an identity crisis, the brilliance and bluntness of Regensburg remains. It comes down to a matter of the truth: Was the Pope really on to something of such magnitude it was completely overlooked by an unprepared public?Fr. Schall thinks so. In his book on the speech he readily ranks Regensburg with not only John Paul II’s 1979 Poland voyage that set in motion the end of Soviet Communism, but also Cicero’s Pro Archia, Pericles’ Funeral Oration, Plato’s Apology, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Henry V on St. Crispin’s Day, Lincoln at Gettysburg, Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, Churchill at war. “Events need not be words,” he writes. “But words can also be events…” And now there’s Benedict at Regensburg: “Academic words are primarily to enlighten us, to take our minds to the heart of what is. This enlightenment is the purpose of Regensburg. It is what has been lacking in our understanding of where we are.”It also launched a hallmark of memorable, culturally impactful “September speeches” from Benedict, that included, for instance, his challenge to Parisian cultural elite in 2008, his bold evocation of St. Thomas More in Westminster Hall in 2010, and at the Reichstag in Berlin before Germany’s political leaders in 2011 (all appear in Liberating Logos, edited by Dr. Marc Guerra). While all unique to their own time and place, all point back to what was said at Regensburg: “[N]ot to act with reason is contrary to God’s nature.” Dr. Guerra himself notes how prescient Benedict detected the “flight from reason” that was surrounding him:Looking back, Pope Benedict’s penetrating diagnosis of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual pathologies that are spawned by our late modern flights from reason—whether these are born out of religious voluntarism or scientific reductionism or cultural perspectivalism or, increasingly, religiously motivated humanitarianism—is, in many ways, more relevant today than it was a mere ten years ago. Truth be told, the Church and the West still have much to learn from the Regensburg Lecture.Benedict’s aim is not to champion reason alone, but ratio recta—right reason. It’s a direct challenge to the pervading dictatorship of relativism he has long sought to confront and crush. Such tyranny extends down to the very universities meant to explore that reason in multiple subjects of life. It is no accident that Benedict chose a university setting and directed his Address to “representatives of science.” As recent social crises in academia have revealed, the typical foundation for a university as a place of discourse on ranges of ideas is now a shrinking footprint. Doing so inevitably excludes real discussion of God. Not only is the subject of God the central theme of Joseph Ratzinger’s life, but the central theme of the great thinkers and civilizations in history. It was of such import that Regensburg could not ignore exposing the attempt to replace God totally: “A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.” Is this right reason, the kind of reason now realigning public discourse, the public way of life?As Gregg noted on this site a few months ago, reason is being remade not in the image of God, but of a certain perception of how man is to be today: thus, the opposite of reason, in this mentality, is not unreason but faith itself. Anything having to do with faith is immediately dismissed as contrary to reason—and thus must be eradicated. This is what the Pope confronts at Regensburg and what concerns Gregg:Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture was as much about the West’s crisis of faith in reason as it was about the deeper theological problems driving Islamist terrorism. If the West forgets that the Jewish and Christian God is, in fact, not just Love (Caritas) but also Divine Reason (Logos), then it cannot help but collapse into mere sentimental humanitarianism. The present prevalence of feelings-talk and emotivism in much of Western Christianity, including among some prominent Catholics, and their evident disinterest in right reason and natural law tells us that Benedict’s warnings were right on the mark.The Pope at Regensburg, without ingratiating to feelings-talk or emotivism to express his views, and without talking down to his audience in the Aula Magna and beyond, put on display in 30 minutes that the Christian proposal needs both fides and ratio to reach its full potential. “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” opens Pope Saint John Paul II’s penultimate encyclical Fides et Ratio, a text which bears a heavy Ratzingerian influence, “and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”The proper relationship of faith and reason, therefore, is the Logos. “Logos means both word and reason,” Benedict summarizes in the lecture. Addressing it inevitably leads one into the purview of religion; the Pope knows that unlike the wishes of elitist proponents of statism, it cannot be discounted, and having empathy and knowledge of diverse cultures and traditions where a faith in something greater than themselves is standard—instead of ignorance and contempt—leads to mutual understanding. Even if it makes one unpopular. “We seem to be witnessing a clash between two great cultural systems," he remarked, "the ‘West’ and Islam, with very different forms of power and moral orientation. But what is the West? And who is Islam?” In his own lecture given in 2007 at James Madison University explicating both Benedict at Regensburg and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard commencement address, Fr. Schall observes Benedict’s grasp of limitation—limits of government and its influences on the human person; limits on human life itself; the Kantian limits of reason alone; and the limits of sola scriptura, for instance. Determine the degree of limitation on reason and there you will define what you really believe—that is the challenge of Regensburg. It is so challenging we dare not address it, instead choosing to occupy our passions and anger on the branches rather than the root of what is. It is a challenge that still remains, and its words still await discovery. The ones who seek a better world, who know true diplomacy and dialogue are necessary but recognize truth is the real summit, the ones who will actually pivot the world onto a better course must first sit in quiet and read Regensburg alone, then with each other, and a conversation will start and action follow. But not without risk. Dr. Mary Mumbach, professor at Northeast Catholic College and contributor to the collection of essays on Regensburg titled Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason, notes as such: Threats of enforcement of political correctness, and in some cases, of terrorist attacks increasingly place in jeopardy models of faith and reason housed in the sanctuaries dedicated to the cultivation of these spiritual gifts. Increasingly, professors of the life of reason (and/or of faith) labor in the shadow of threats against their livelihood and sometimes against their very lives. Pope Benedict’s witness manifested what cost might be exacted of those who labor in universities as well as in Christian churches. For those dauntless in following Benedict’s lead, perhaps such charting of a better course indeed will happen within a university, where such discourse was intended. And maybe it will take place this year, when a bold professor or daring staff member inspired by the courage of Benedict the Brave makes Regensburg required reading either in the classroom or in some clandestine meeting of counter-culturals yearning for change, who know that two wings are needed to soar. To see past the layers of distraction created by controversy and to meet Benedict where he wanted to take not only the faithful but all people of goodwill: to new heights of intellect and faith.
Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture was as much about the West’s crisis of faith in reason as it was about the deeper theological problems driving Islamist terrorism. If the West forgets that the Jewish and Christian God is, in fact, not just Love (Caritas) but also Divine Reason (Logos), then it cannot help but collapse into mere sentimental humanitarianism. The present prevalence of feelings-talk and emotivism in much of Western Christianity, including among some prominent Catholics, and their evident disinterest in right reason and natural law tells us that Benedict’s warnings were right on the mark.
Threats of enforcement of political correctness, and in some cases, of terrorist attacks increasingly place in jeopardy models of faith and reason housed in the sanctuaries dedicated to the cultivation of these spiritual gifts. Increasingly, professors of the life of reason (and/or of faith) labor in the shadow of threats against their livelihood and sometimes against their very lives. Pope Benedict’s witness manifested what cost might be exacted of those who labor in universities as well as in Christian churches.
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.