Today, on NPR’s Morning Edition, Sylvia Poggioli reported about a speech Pope Benedict delivered yesterday in Regensburg, Germany.
Speaking at the university, the main theme of Benedict’s speech was how the development of science and philosophy in the West had caused it to marginalize and separate itself from faith, which has led to the secularization of Europe and fear in other continents. He said,
The world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion from the divine, from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. 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…
Today, when we have learned to recognize the pathologies and life-threatening diseases associated with religion and reason, and the ways that God’s image can be destroyed by hatred and fanaticism, it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe…
Only this can free us from being afraid of God — which is ultimately at the root of modern atheism. Only this God saves us from being afraid of the world and from anxiety before the emptiness of life.
What really raised a few eyebrows in the speech, however, were some brief remarks he made about Islam and violence.
Making reference to a debate in Constantinople in 1391 between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and “a learned Persian”, he quoted the emperor as saying,
”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 the sword by the faith he preached.”
In the Islamic world, these remarks may turn out to be incendiary. On the Lebanese website Campaign for Good Governance in Lebanon. The Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, they carried the New York Times article written by Ian Fisher with the headline Pope Benedict, in inflamatory speech, assails all: secularism, Jihad, Islam and the Prophet.
Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for La Republicca said of the speech,
The text reveals his deep mistrust regarding the aggressive side of Islam…
Certainly he closes the door to an idea which was very dear to John Paul II — the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same God.
The Holy father’s upcoming trip to Turkey, whose proposed entry in the European Union he spoke out against, is going to be very interesting.
On NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, Sylvia Poggioli reports on how Benedict has been urging a return to faith in Germany.