Thursday, November 30, 2006

An Interreligious Moment

Pope Benedict XVI continues to upset fundamentalist muslims and RadTrad Catholics alike. He insists on imitating Christ in welcoming his brother--estranged as that brother may be.

How shocking. How scandalous.

How Foolish.

The AP has the details:

Pope Benedict XVI prayed alongside an Islamic cleric in Turkey's most famous mosque Thursday in a dramatic gesture of outreach to Muslims after outrage from the pontiff's remarks linking violence and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The pope bowed his head and closed his eyes for nearly a minute inside the Blue Mosque after Mustafa Cagrici, the head cleric of Istanbul, said: "Now I'm going to pray."

As the pope left the famous 17th century mosque, the pope turned to Cagrici and thanked him "for this moment of prayer," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"This visit will help us find together the way of peace for the good of all humanity," the pope said during only the second papal visit to a Muslim place of worship. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited a mosque in Syria in 2001.

(AP) A Turkish police woman checks the bag of a woman wanting to cross a restricted area near Istanbul's...
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The mosque visit was added to Benedict's schedule as a "sign of respect" during his first papal trip to a Muslim nation, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said last week.

The pope removed his shoes before entering the carpeted expanse of the mosque, which is officially known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque after the Ottoman sultan Ahmet I, who ordered its construction. But it's widely called the Blue Mosque after its elaborate blue tiles.

Benedict received a gift of a glazed tile decorated with a dove and a painting showing a view of the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. The pope gave the imam a mosaic showing four doves.

"Let us pray for brotherhood and for all humanity," the pope said in Italian.

Lombardi said the pope "paused in meditation" inside the mosque and "certainly his thoughts turned to God."

(AP) Turkish police check the bags of people wanting to cross a restricted area near Istanbul's...
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The pope has offered wide-ranging messages of reconciliation to Muslims since arriving in Turkey on Tuesday, including appeals for greater understanding and support for Turkey's steps to become the first Muslim nation in the European Union.

But Benedict also has set down his own demands.

After a deeply symbolic display of unity with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Christian Orthodox, the pope again repeated his calls for greater freedoms for religious minorities and lamented the divisions among Christians - including the nearly 1,000-year rift between Catholics and Orthodox.

What could the Holy Father possibly have been thinking? Why would he bow his head in silent prayer with an obvious non-believer.

Oh, I don't know. Perhaps a certain document called Nostra Aetate had something to do with it:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

Horror of horrors! The Catholic Church refuses to categorically deny that other's religious experiences and traditions contain some degree of truth! She may even call her members to prudently "promote the good things, spiritual and moral,...found among these men."

But, of course, sharing a moment of prayer with one of these couldn't possibly be a legitimate expression of such promotion. Everyone knows that Muslims are idolaters that refuse to recognize the One True God. Right.

Wrong. Any Fool, particularly a Catholic one, will face the obstacle of revelation as interpreted through the Magisterium, if they want to believe that. Again, Nostra Aetate:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

So why would Pope Benedict silently pray while the chief Mufti of Istanbul offered a vocal prayer? He has sought to develop relationships between Catholics and both muslims and Orthodox Christians. Both of these aims have origins in both the pastoral teachings of the Church through the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict prays not to embrace a meaningless moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. He prays in order fulfill the call of the Holy Spirit as he sees it: united all the brothers in spite of the scandalous divisions that exist between them. How can he hope to welcome muslims if he refuses to share in the significant spiritual experience of their tradition--prayer to God? Whether the mouth-foamers from both ends of our respective traditions recognize it or not, Christians and Muslims pray to God. Nostra Aetate attests to this. We defy this teaching of the Church at our peril.

Pope Benedict XVI said at the beginning of his Pontificate that he sought to listen to Christ and lead others to listen to him. He continues to exemplify this on his pilgrimage in Turkey. May we all do the same!

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