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Why didn’t someone vet this: Muslim anger grows at Pope speech

In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born Pope explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between violence and faith.

Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The emperor’s words were, he said: “Show me just what Muhammad 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.”

Benedict said “I quote” twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”.

Only the Pope knows why he chose to quote a 14th Century Christian emperor who was engaged in a conflict with Muslims. He could have quoted the 13th Century Christian emperor, Alexios III Angelos, who lived under Muslim protection before becoming emperor and watched Crusaders attack Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade.

The real problem is that Muslims get very nervous about Papal statements concerning the Middle East and Islam. There is a lot of history between the Papacy and Islam to overcome, so any misstep is magnified.


1 Steve Bates { 09.15.06 at 12:59 am }

Sigh. I believe UU’s can appreciate what Muslims must experience, though for us it’s modern-day Calvinists (or their equivalent) who make us nervous. Ever since John Calvin reluctantly but unashamedly allowed his friend Michael Servetus… a unitarian in philosophy, though the term probably hadn’t been invented yet… to be burned at the stake, we grow nervous when we see zealots gathering firewood, even if only metaphorically.

In the long term, the Catholic Church, and of course the Pope himself, have nothing to gain and much to lose by fanning the flames of religious conflict, especially this one. People may be intimidated into doing or not doing something, or even saying or not saying something, but I’ve yet to see anyone who was intimidated into believing or not believing some article of faith. And some people get mighty angry when anyone tries to intimidate them.

If the Pope wants a target, he should go after UU’s. We’re UUsed to being targeted. There are fewer of us. And we’re as heretical as he could hope for in a target. Most of us are not even “people of the Book,” which Muslims most certainly are. As it is, the Pope is going after the fastest-growing religion in the world. Is that wise?

2 Bryan { 09.15.06 at 10:46 am }

I’m not sure what his point really was, without a transcript of the entire speech, but this is the bit that the audience remembers. He may have been attempting to be conciliatory, but the people will remember this description of Muslims.

It has been written, and is entirely believable, that Martin Luther was only interested in a scholarly debate, not a revolution, with his theses, but words have power.

3 cat daddy and dr squeeky { 09.15.06 at 5:06 pm }

I liked how he said that Islam is spread through the sword, because Catholicism was spread through Latin America and other places solely because the missionaries and priests were swell guys…And certainly, no one was hurt… or burned… or stabbed… or extorted… of course…

4 Bryan { 09.15.06 at 5:26 pm }

Of course, CDDS. Everyone know that Los Indios were anxious to become part of the Church, just as anxious as my Prussian ancestors were when the Knights of the Teutonic Order showed up to enlighten them.