Thursday, 6 March 2008

An Overdue Dialogue

It took 18 months after his controversially perceived lecture at Regensburg University for coming to the conclusion that he has to meet the clerical representatives of Islam for further clarifications. In an open letter signed by 38 Muslim scholars and leaders the Holy Father had been invited for a friendly dialogue of the two major monotheistic faiths some time ago. Now he wants to talk with them.

Pope Benedict XVI, who had travelled to Istanbul last year (Byzantium, as he still called it) and there had visited the Blue Mosque, was very reluctant in apologizing for his not really helpful quotation of a 14th Century Byzantine Emperor who had criticized Islam and had called it violent and irrational. It must be remembered that in what is called the Middle Ages in the West, a dark and inhumane era when plague and other epidemics were depopulating much of Europe, it was Islam which had preserved the Greek philosophers’ knowledge. The countries in the Middle East and beyond then represented (and one has to admit, as before) science, culture, architecture, poetry, and general development. Sad to admit but as a matter of fact, it was Christianity which was ensnared in heavy fighting reason, science, and enlightenment, even later in history.

So, the Pope’s remarks in Regensburg in September 2006 were in fact inappropriate. It is actually difficult to understand these words in particular when emanating from such a highly reputed scholar. It is hoped that Benedict has eventually understood that dialogue of the religions (and especially the monotheistic ones) is urgently needed in a world which seems to run out of the rudder otherwise. The Pope who represents more than a billion Roman Catholics world-wide has a greater responsibility for peace than he might think at the moment.

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