How is this Pope different from all other Popes? For one thing, Pope Benedict XVI has been an outspoken critic for the plight of Christian minorities suffering in Islamic countries. Most recently, in his visit to the Jordanian capital of Amman, Pope Benedict made it a special point to speak out about the shabby way Iraqi Christians have been treated by their host country. Fearlessly, Pope Benedict is continuing his ideological battle against religious extremism that he in his 2006 speech at Regensberg where he quoted a Byzantine emperor from the Middle Ages criticizing Islam for seeking to spread its message by the sword. Although the Pope apologized to the Muslim community, he delicately made an apology only for the hurt his statement caused, but not for the substance of his remarks.
During his visit at the King Hussein Mosque in Amman on Saturday, once more Pope Benedict alluded to the 2006 speech. When he said, “It is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society,” Benedict was reinforcing—if cryptically—his basic criticism of radical Islamic extremism.
Obviously Pope Benedict realizes that Israel is the only country that can ensure that the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem remain protected under her care. The relationship between Jews and Christians is, according to the Pope, spiritually profound and intimate. In one of his speeches Pope Benedict spoke about “the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people …. From the beginning, the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the patriarchs and prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments. May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!”
A Jewish interest in protecting the holy sites of Jerusalem is not merely a matter of Jewish concern; it is also of Christian interests. In saying this, the pope made clear that he views the preservation of Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem as essential for Christian heritage. For the record, the Islamic Wakf (religious leadership of Jerusalem) which desires to be the sole custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites in the event of its partition, has already gone to great lengths to systematically destroy the ruins of the Temple Mount and the Jewish and Christian heritage of the holy basin through archeological theft, illegal building and digging.
The Pope is very cognizant of the anti-Christian sentiment that the Palestinian community has expressed over the passed sixty years. During the week of the pontiff’s arrival, Palestinian Authority Muslims went on a rampage Sunday and desecrated 70 Christian graves two weeks after the pope praised efforts for a new PA state and tried to appease Muslim anger over previous disputes between the two religions. The vandals smashed gravestones and knocked metal and stone crosses off graves in the village of Jiffna, near Ramallah, home to approximately 900 Christians and 700 Muslims. Greek Orthodox Church official George Abdo told Reuters the head and hand of a statue of Madonna also was severed.
If I were a Christian, I certainly would not want a bunch of Muslim gangsters and thugs controlling my faith’s holy sites in Israel. Frankly speaking, their track-record is pretty pathetic.
Pope Benedict XVI, during a speech in Germany, at a university where he used to teach, quoted a 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor: “He said, I quote, ‘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.’ . . . Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God,’ the emperor says, ‘is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.'” And, the pontiff even condemned violent jihad, or “holy war.”