HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
December 4, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Those who believe are never alone

Father Michael Miller, The Churches of St. Peter and St. Joseph, Delano

Those who believe are never alone. This was the theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to his native Bavaria in September.

He gave several beautiful and inspiring homilies and talks. Yet all of this was completely overshadowed by Muslim reaction to one quotation in a 30-minute academic speech.

The reaction actually proved his point that violence and religion are incompatible and that it is unreasonable to spread the faith through violence.

It is one thing for Muslims to say that they did not appreciate the quotation of the 14th Century emperor, but it is quite another to attack churches, and to burn our Holy Father in effigy and call for his death. Where are the apologies for that disrespect?

Clearly, the Pope had no intention of provoking or insulting Muslims, moderates or extremists. In his homily two days earlier, in Munich, he said, “Contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom . . . is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world’s peoples are looking for and that all of us want. The tolerance that we urgently need includes the fear of God – respect for what others hold sacred . . . This sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn, if God becomes once more present to us and in us.”

The Pope apologized more than once for the misunderstanding and the reaction that it caused. Now, an apology is owed to him. Respect is a two-way street.

Yet the real story is not the frightening presence of the significant number of Muslim extremists who have publicly called for the death of the highest religious official in the world, only 17 months after the world watched his succession. This should cause great alarm, and the world better take note, for it is the same mentality that brought the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001.

The real story here, however, is how everything else Benedict said on this trip and for the last 17 months (and 21 years before that) has been ignored. He was not trying to start a fight, but to end one.

“We do not fail to show respect for other religions and cultures, profound respect for their faith, when we proclaim clearly and uncompromisingly the God who counters violence with his own suffering; who in the face of the power of evil exalts His mercy, in order that evil may be limited and overcome.” (Munich Homily, Sept. 10, 2006) Everything else that the Pope said on this trip was addressed to the West: to non-Muslims.

The speech that caused the uproar was “an indictment of the West itself, for eliminating the transcendent, the holy, the divine from modern consciousness” and “unless it recovers a vision of God, cannot engage in a fruitful dialogue with the other great cultures of the world, which have a basic religious conviction about reality. Among these great cultures, of course, is Islam.” (Dr. Robert Moynihan, “Reaping the Whirlwind,” (Catholic Exchange) 9-19-06).

The best thing that the Church and the world can do is to listen carefully to the man we Catholics call “The Vicar of Christ,” whose entire message can be summed up in his own words in his farewell message to Bavaria: “I am convinced, in faith, that in Christ, in His Word, we find the way not only to eternal happiness, but also to the building of a humane future even now, here below.”

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