Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pope responds to the Islamic world

While the Archbishop of Canterbury has busied himself by presiding at a 'secret' Eucharist for homosexual clergy, His Holiness has taken it upon himself to send a response to the Islamic world on behalf of the Christian world to ‘A Common Word between Us and You’, which was a ‘letter of peace’ warning that global security was at risk if Muslims and Christians could not make peace – essentially on terms acceptable to the Islamic world.

While it is encouraging to see any response at all, it is discouraging to note that, while the Muslim letter was genuinely synthesised from the views of numerous strands and traditions within Islam, to which 138 diverse leaders were signatories, the response comes from Papa Benedict alone, purporting, of course, to speak on behalf of the entire Church. Yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury was either preoccupied with homosexuals or taking further study leave, but where was the consultation with and input from the manifold Orthodox groups, the Lutherans, Baptists or Methodists, to whom ‘A Common Word’ was also addressed? The Pope’s response was sent to Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal who is president of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. It was signed by the Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone, and begins by expressing the Pope’s ‘deep appreciation’ for the ‘positive spirit’ which inspired the original letter.

But, presumptive Vice-Christ or not, Herr Ratzinger is a theologian of the highest order, and chose as his riposte to the Muslims’ ‘Common Word’ assertion a stern reminder that there are real differences between Christians and Muslims which should neither be ignored nor downplayed. Reiterating part of an address he made to representatives of Muslim Communities in Cologne, Germany in 2005, the Pope stressed: ‘We must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace.’ There is, of course, ‘common ground’ between Muslims and Christians, and ‘we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge....There is plenty of scope for acting together in the service of fundamental moral values’.

Yet beneath the veneer of universalism is a subtle interweaving of the fundamental Christian exhortations: ‘Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on respect for the dignity of every human person, on the objective knowledge of the other’s religion, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation’.

The Pope also took the opportunity to slap down the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, stating that atheism has 'led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice', and has become its own 'type of moralism', rooted in the idea that a good God could not have made such an unjust world. But he said a 'world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope'.

The letter invited bin Talal and a delegation of Muslim scholars to the Vatican for tea and bacon cucumber sandwiches and halal cake, and also proposed setting up meetings with bodies such as the Pontifical Council for Inter Religious Dialogue, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

At least while they are all talking, World War III may yet be averted.

Unless Mohammed Bear serves as a latter day Archduke Ferdinand…


Anonymous the recusant said...

It has to be born in mind that this letter from the Muslim Religious Leaders was consequent of His Holiness Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, not from any initiative of the Eastern Orthodox, Protestant or other Christian or secularist initiative. Therefore who else would respond to such a letter on behalf of The Church?

It is true that the recipients of the letter were many and varied as can be seen ‘here’, but the first name at the top of the list slightly above and separated from the rest is His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Now if you scroll down to the bottom of the list just after His Holiness Abune Paulos, Fifth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Tekle Haymanot, Archbishop of Axium, and His Beatitude Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, you will find in the penultimate section The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the other Protestant Religious leaders you refer to. The good news is that they are placed above the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary, World Council of Churches, And Leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere….

Ok, but on a more serious note Pope Benedict answered the letter because any coherent reading of the situation will recognise that the dialogue is primarily between Rome and the Muslim religious world, which always has considered Rome to be the centre of Christian authority. This could not have been more clearly demonstrated last April when, on the day after the Pope sent a private letter asking for their liberation the captured British service personnel were released by Ahmadinejad who called it "an Easter gift".

Lambeth, or for that matter any of the Protestant Churches do not have that centralizing authority of the Pope and Rome, in this respect Islam and Protestantism are alike. And as you have remarked in the case of the ABC and the Anglican Communion, he (and they) have been a little, distracted of late with other, more theologically challenging matters.

The answer to where was the consultation with and input from the manifold Orthodox groups, the Lutherans, Baptists or Methodists, to whom ‘A Common Word’ was also addressed is this. What responses did they offer up to anyone for consideration and review, what answer have they given to date and if as the letter was addressed to them all, why didn't they meet to consider their response if it was important to them. Why didn’t they ask for a meeting with Vatican officials to discuss the matter further? You can hardly hold it against the Pope that he did respond, and apparently they didn't. Or are you seriously trying to make the case that you are upset because your coreligionists were not invited to tea with the Pope for a friendly chat and bin Talal was. Sorry Your Grace but the complaint sounds a little whiney form the pews.

As for the ‘presumptive Vice-Christ’ swipe, that’s a bit cheap, especially from you.

1 December 2007 at 13:56  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

There it goes again: God is other people. Now the point of reference, the master signifier, has been switched from the transcendant god onto other people and what they believe and then aligning yourself into a relationship of minimum tension with people.

1 December 2007 at 14:30  
Anonymous WasLost said...

"...but where was the consultation with and input from the manifold Orthodox groups, the Lutherans, Baptists or Methodists, to whom ‘A Common Word’ was also addressed?"

Where indeed, your Grace? I'm sure Papa B. would have gladly joined in had you all organised it; or were the self-aggrandising Papists supposed to have organised it for you?

2 December 2007 at 16:50  
Anonymous Marcus said...

Your grace might not have noticed, but the current occupier of the Throne of St Augustine did indeed reply to the Muslim letter, on October 11, nearly two months ago - the press release of which can be found here:

Perhaps a word of apology to your embattled successor?

3 December 2007 at 16:40  
Blogger Dymphna said...

If your successor is "embattled" it's because he doesn't have the sense to stay out of the line of fire.

As to his letter to the Muslims being ignored, it has become the slovenly habit of the media to wait for the Anglican Church to do something controversial before they will report in any "depth" on it.

I would think the Baptists, Lutherans, et al, have already aligned with the Muslims -- at least in this country. They don't need to write no stinkin' letter...or sentiments to that effect.

3 December 2007 at 19:46  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Marcus,

So he has.

But no, His Grace is not going to apologise, for the response is woefully inadequate. At least that of His Holiness engaged in matters of theology. The Archbishop of Canterbury appears not to understand what that is.

3 December 2007 at 23:26  
Blogger Alfred the Ordinary said...

I see that
has now been removed. Shame, I would have liked to have read what ABC said.

18 March 2008 at 13:19  

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