Those who were seeking yet another apology from Pope Benedict today at his Wednesday general audience will be unhappy. Various radical Islamic groups and religious leaders demanded a fuller apology from the pope than the one he gave on Sunday, which I contend wasn’t an apology for what he said so much as regret at how his inoffensive words were received and misunderstood. (And who really believes that any apology, no matter how sincere, would mollify his extremist critics?)
In any case, such an apology was not forthcoming in today’s general audience. The Holy Father devoted the audience to reflecting on his recent trip to Bavaria, a poignant homecoming sadly now overshadowed by the Regensburg lecture. The totality of his remarks on the lecture are as follows:
“I chose the theme,” he said, “of the relationship between faith and reason. In order to introduce my audience to the dramatic nature and current importance of the subject, I quoted some words from a Christian-Muslim dialogue from the 14th century in which the Christian - the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus - presented to his Muslim interlocutor, in a manner we find incomprehensibly brusque, the problem of the relationship between faith and violence.
“This quotation, unfortunately, has lent itself to misunderstandings. However, to an attentive reader of my text it is clear that in no way did I wish to make my own the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor, and that their polemical content does not express my personal convictions. My intentions were quite otherwise: on the basis of what Manuel II subsequently said in a positive sense ... concerning the reason that must guide us in transmitting the faith, I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together.
“The theme of my talk was, then, the relationship between faith and reason,” he added. “I wished to call for a dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and for dialogue between all cultures and religions. I hope that at various moments of my visit - when, for example, in Munich I underlined how it important it is to respect what is sacred for others - what emerged was my deep respect for all the great religions, and in particular for Muslims who ‘worship the one God,’ and with whom we are committed to promoting ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity.’
“I trust, therefore, that following the initial reactions, my words at the University of Regensburg may constitute an impulse and encouragement towards positive, even self-critical, dialogue both among religions and between modern reason and Christian faith.”
I see no apology there, just an admonition to act like an adult and set aside petty and childish oversensitivity to perceived insults.
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