Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh, that poor, naive Pope -- he has no idea he's offending people. All he wants to do is spread love and understanding among people of different faiths:

... This is a man who has been at the heart of one of the world's multinational institutions for a very long time. He has been privy to how pontifical messages get distorted and magnified by a global media. Shy he may be, but no one has ever before accused this pope of being a remote theologian sitting in an ivory tower....

...Famously, the then Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to Buddhism as a form of masturbation for the mind -- a remark still repeated among deeply offended Buddhists more than a decade after he said it....

The current anger of Muslims is comparable to the anger and disappointment felt by Jews after his visit to Auschwitz in May. He gave a long address at the site of the former concentration camp and failed to mention anti-semitism, and offered no apology -- whether on behalf of his own country, Germany, or on behalf of the Catholic Church. He acknowledged he was a "son of the German people" ... "but not guilty on that account"; he then launched into a highly controversial claim that a "ring of criminals" were responsible for nazism and that the German people were as much their victims as anyone else....

Even worse, in his Auschwitz address, he managed to argue in a long theological exposition that the real victims of the Holocaust were God and Christianity. As one commentator put it, he managed to claim that Jews were the "themselves bit players -- bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one." ...

That's from Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian, and yes, as she notes, Ratzinger did call Buddhism "auto-erotic spirituality." And Bunting also notes another part of the Pope's Islam charm offensive -- his widely publicized audience a few months ago with Oriana ("Muslims breed like rats") Fallaci.

And there's this from Jonathan Petre in yesterday's Telegraph:

... Benedict XVI has irked many Muslims by arguing against Turkey's membership of the European Union, which he fears could dilute Europe's Christian roots.

Yeah -- he's upset not because, say, Turkey tries to jail novelists for acknowledging the Armenian genocide, but because it's not Christian.

More from Petre:

The clearest indication of the Pope's change of emphasis was the sidelining of one of the Vatican's leading experts on Islam, the British archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who was closely associated with John Paul II's policy of reconciliation.

Archbishop Fitzgerald, an Arab speaker and scholar, could have expected a Cardinal's hat as head of the Vatican department dealing with inter-religious dialogue.

Instead, as part of a shake-up of the Curia last year, he was dispatched to Cairo as the Pope's envoy in a move widely seen as a demotion.

At the time, Vatican watchers expressed alarm.

Fr Thomas Reese, a Jesuit, said at the time: "The Pope's worst decision so far has been the exiling of Archbishop Fitzgerald. He was the smartest guy in the Vatican on relations with Muslims. You don't exile someone like that, you listen to them. If the Vatican says something dumb about Muslims, people will die in parts of Africa and churches will be burned in Indonesia."

Rejection of a predecessor's softer line? Banishment of a non-hard-liner who actually knows what he's talking about? Setting a disaster in motion as a result of all this?

Sounds rather Bush-like.

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