What a canonical kafuffle.
Pope Benedict XVI in his speech at the University of Regensburg, Germany, this September 2006, has opened very old medieval wounds lingering under the thin skin of Muslims across the Middle East. Moderate and immoderate followers of Islam still harbor (some say perpetuate) a will to sharp grievance against Western political or religious leaders that even remotely disrespect the faith of Islam. Part of the problem may be the tin ear Christians and this pontiff in particular turn towards a majority of Muslims who still want Christians to atone for the Christian Crusades. They see the Crusades as a kind of Islamic “Holocaust” inflicted upon Muslims in the Near East and North Africa in nine bloody invasions spanning two centuries of the high Middle Ages (1096-1291). Lest a pope forgets, Muslims are at pains to remind each succeeding, infallible Vicar of Christ that a pope hatched the idea of Crusades.
It was Pope Urban II in 1095 who conceived a plan that could kill two heresies with one siege tower stone. An infestation of unemployed knights crowded European Christendom in the 11th century. They had pacified the Maygars, the Vikings had converted, leaving a whole lot of fighting men without gainful “war-full” employ. Your local brigand committing mortal sins raping and pillaging good Christians was more often than not a chain mailed knight of “chivalry” on the dole. Pope Urban in his prayers conjured a “Deo”-bolical idea. Why not motivate these killers to girdle their willful violence for a divine cause? Why not let them loose on the people of Islam, and in so doing, kill a whole lot of infidels while taking back Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Christ?
Holy war, batman! Holy Templar tantrums! What a concept!
What helped Muhammad’s Muslims spread their faith with a scimitar across the Near East, North Africa and even across Christian Spain likewise a Christian broadsword could do. Christian knights were violent men. Do not waste time making them Lambs of God, sick them on someone you righteously hate, who occupies a land you want back. Give your knights divine permission to rape, pillage, terrorize and kill people, as long as they are infidels far removed from Europe. Keep those fellows killing and being killed for Christ in the Holy Land.
“God wills it!” cried the infallible Pope Urban, to the armies of the First Crusades who gathered for his blessing in 1095, before heading by land and sea for the Holy Land. They took Jerusalem in 1099 and in breaks between their hosannas giving thanks to God, massacred nearly all of its inhabitants: Muslims, Orthodox Christians and especially those that Canon law infallibly called “perfidious,” the members from the same race as Christ. The knights hot with holy blood lust eagerly hunted the Jews down with unsheathed swords.
A witness to the massacre, Fulcher of Chartres, wrote: “Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.”
Oh well, God willed it. The pope in Rome had spoken.
Papal infallibility was the popular belief of popes then–and I dare contend popes believe it now, even though no pope since Pius XII back in 1950 has publicly or officially expressed such perfect capability. He wielded his infallible ex cathedra powers to settle the issue of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. He alleged that God took up Mary, body and soul, to paradise. Strangely enough God’s infallible message dropped from above into the papal person did not enlighten Pius XII about whether Mary had died or been carried off alive into heaven.
Oh shame! Who dare blame God’s perfection of errors? The Holy Bible is “His” perfect message, yet the Lord God does not even know that his creation, Earth, is round or that it orbits the Sun in His heavens–not the other way around. I guess I can forgive Godly oversights about Mary’s condition when Assumption be assumed by Pius. God indeed works in mysterious ways if you do not question the Lord’s escape from reason, such as when Pope Urban got the green light to make murder and war God’s manifestation of holy will.
Anyway, God talks to many people, or so they claim. Why not a pope or two.
If he can talk to G.W. Bush and Usama bin Laden, he must talk to Pope Benedict, right?
When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in May 2005, faith would have it that God told him how “He” would define his reign. I mean the good cardinal takes on the name and mantle of St. Benedict, the great 5th-century reformer and peacemaker. He makes a point of saying that his work was a continuation of the fifteenth pope Benedict from the First World War years. He too was a peacemaker, trying to bring warring Christian factions out of the trenches to the negotiation table. Ratzinger/Benedict proclaimed his pontificacy to be that of a peace maker in his first address to the world. God must have told him to say that, with at least the same certitude that God told President Bush to invade Iraq and God told Usama bin Laden to hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon with hijacked civilian planes.
Even the famous prophetic mottoes of the 12th-century Irish St. Malachy, portended that Benedict, identified as “De Gloria Olivae” (From the Glory of the Olive), will symbolically have the olive branch of the peacemaker in his future. The motto even implies the name he would take. The Benedictine monastic order includes a reform sect created back in the Renaissance period called the “Olivetans.” The olive branch of peace is their symbol. They wear white robes like the pope. It would seem that God and prophecy have hit the infallible mark again.
So, how is the peacemaking pope doing?
I would have thought Benedict XVI would possess enough common papal infallibility not to bring up a rather strong and challenging quotation fiercely disparaging Muhammad and Islam as only a force of evil in the world. Especially these days when Muslims explode at the slightest barb caste by a Western political or religious leader, or agitate a crusader’s spear cushion of reaction in the streets because of a cartoon in a Danish newspaper. We live in a time of religious intolerance to criticism. The lever of civilized temper holding religious feelings in balance these days is as delicate to touch as a mouse trap. It can snap your fingers at any feather light foment of flaw.
Muslim clerics and Talibs hypnotized their brethren to view the crimes of medieval popes sending a holocaust of crusades upon them as something that happened yesterday. A pope maligning Islam, is as provocative a button pusher for Muslims as would be a post-Nazi German disparaging Judaism.
Pope Benedict in his Regensburg speech went one insensitive step further. He quoted an Islamaphobe and near contemporary of the era of Christian Crusades, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who said to a Persian visitor in 1391, the following:
“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 used this quote to support his belief that Islam’s God “is not bound up with any of our [Christian] categories, even that of rationality.” Benedict laboriously concluded that Christianity, being rooted in Greek language and a foundation of ancient Greek philosophical reason, like Paleologus, revealed God’s true nature as a reasonable God. A God of the Greek “Logos,” whereas Muslims incorrectly viewed God as a being absolutely beyond reason and therefore Islam promoted in them irrational acts of violence in the name of God.
To say that Muhammad brought nothing good to humanity’s quest for spiritual awakening is simply wrong. Thanks to the prophet of Islam we have deeper understanding into the mystery of heartfulness and surrendering all to God. Christians could learn a thing or two about opening their hearts like Muslims. Thanks to Allah, we have the sweet poetry of Rumi, the whirling of ecstatic dervishes and so much more. Should we counter the pope’s quote of Paleologos and say there is nothing good in Christianity because of their holy wars–their Crusades–converting people by the sword?
Still, why are the streets of Islam across the world singed with the ash of anger and burnt effigies of the pontiff? It has been my experience that I do not get angry at something said unless there is some truth in it, a truth I cannot yet face. So I react.
The pope in his indelicate analogy exposed at least one taboo of truth. Paleologus was right to question what good could be gained by forced conversion of people by the threat of the sword.
“Cross”-sadism for Christ, “Cresent”-sadism for Muhammad. They both used the sword to convert the helpless.
Unfortunately the pope did not address the paradox of shared irrational behavior that made the Christian Crusades synonymous with Islamic Jihad.
He has said nothing so far about the Christian virtue, saddled to Greek “reason” behind Pope Urban saying God willed the slaughter of Muslims in the Crusades. Or how a pope can reason mortal sins of rape, pillage and murder one day can become a holy indulgence forgiven by God the next. How does the current infallible Pontiff reason and correct the infallible Pope Urban? Benedict has yet to explain the reasoning behind popes having ex cathedra powers that contradict ex cathedra actions of their predecessors. How can God in “Logos” contradict Himself?
No, Benedict stacks the cards of “Logos” against Islam in his speech at Regensburg. I carefully read a transcript. Talk about a torturous read! This pope does not have the concise, welcoming communication skills of John Paul II. He is awkward, pedantic in extremis.
The core message of Benedict though delivered in a clumsy way was clear enough to me. He does not want to soften the edges, like his predecessor with “I’m OK, you’re OK” ecumenical diplomacy. This pope, perhaps rightfully, wants to bring encounter and challenge into his ecumenical engagement with Islam. I am all for it. I have enjoyed the searing and purifying vision quest of encounter therapy groups. Of course, one cannot open an encounter without being encountered in turn. Everybody’s crap eventually gets placed in the center of the therapy circle for all to expose. Benedict the Christian for the moment has a Muslim’s Jihad number exposed. The next moment, however, will see the Christian Crusader’s number exposed. Will Benedict face up to that?
To paraphrase Christ’s statement about judging others’ faults at the avoidance of your own, it is good that Benedict starts poking at the splinter of error in Islam’s eye. I wonder if the Pope can take a look at the whole beam of irrationality in Christianity’s eye?
My sense is, Pope Benedict wants the encounter with Islam to be one-sided. The evidence is in his string of pathetic, oily, circumventing apologies delivered to Muslims from his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo after the global flap about his comments at Regensburg. First, Benedict apologized for all of you who misunderstood his speech. (How nice. How patronizing!) Next he apologized for Paleologus’ harsh condemnation of Islam, saying it was not his view. (Well, if it was not “your” view, Holy Father, why did you use it to support your point?)
So here we have a papal peacemaker who I predict will go on being ready to engage but not ready to be encountered in turn. He will not even be ready to reiterate his challenges to Islam in clear language but will continue delivering them nebulously, under the weight of pedantic prose. Then when sparks fly, he will dodge and retreat behind prevaricating apologies.
The next stop in Benedict’s therapy session with Islam will take place in November, when he plans to visit Turkey. Even in this moderate and secular state he will reap a whirlwind of woe. Where the pope will go, is the same land Crusader armies rampaged and sacked on their way to conquer the Holy Land.
The Turks even in high office are still smarting about it. Salih Kapusuz, the deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic ruling party, said Benedict’s remarks were either, “the result of pitiful ignorance about Islam and its prophet Muhammad,” or worse–a deliberate distortion that appears to be an effort by this pope “to revive the mentality of the Crusades.”
Kapusuz said the above over Turkish airwaves on state television and radio, adding, that Benedict would go down in history for his words “in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.”
This warning shot across the bow of the Holy See comes from officials of one of the most moderate, Westernized and one of the few democratic states in the Islamic world!
Putting aside Kapusuz’s “kaput” prophecy for the pope’s legacy, what do Benedict’s statements reveal in the prophecy of St. Malachy about his future?
In review, Malachy’s motto for him “De Gloria Olivae” (From the Glory of the Olive) accurately decodes the pope’s name, after St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine order, that has a sub order of monks known at “Olivetans” (Olivae). The pope himself is not a Benedictine but as the prophecy accurately infers, he is a priest living in the spirit of the Benedictine order. The symbol of the olive begs interpreters to wonder if the Irish saint visualized Pope Benedict as a peacemaker (represented by an “olive” branch) on an errant of mercy to the Holy Land. The “olive” branch applies itself also to Israel.
Does this mean Benedict could bring peace to Arab Islamist and Zionist Israelite?
There is another more ominous layer of meaning to the motto. One I have been commenting on since I published my book about St. Malachy’s prophecies back in 1998, entitled The Last Pope.The motto “From the Glory of the Olive” may also stand for the Olivetan Benedictines’ sacred mission. They believed God entrusted them with the task of preparing the world for the Apocalypse as predicted by Jesus Christ to his disciples on top of the Mount of “Olives.” The end time Jesus foresaw could therefore begin during Pope Benedict’s time:
“The time is coming when you will hear the noise of battle near at hand and the news of battles far away; see that you are not alarmed. Such things are bound to happen; but the end is still to come. For nation will make war upon nation, kingdom upon kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes in many places. With all these things the birth-pangs of the new age begin.” (Matthew 24:6-8)
So far the pope, seems to be throwing Greek Fire into the face of Islamic extremism. His olive branch may yet become a scourge of Olivetan apocalypse in the coming war of Christiantiy with Islam. That could mean the reign of Pope Benedict XVI will be a necessary Olivetan passage from peace to apocalypse before the birth of a new and better age.
(23 September 2006)
Read more papal prophecies.