The Pope and Islam and the speech in Regensburg

The Pope and Islam and the speech in Regensburg

Pope Benedict, in a guest lecture at Regensburg University during his trip to Bavaria this week, spoke about the challenges of Islamic extremism and Western secularism. (Read the full text of the speech here.)

In one part he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, who said:

Show me just what Mohammed 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.

He used that quote to reject religious justifications for the spreading of faith through violence. He said, “Violence is is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

Although the Pope’s speech was more wide-ranging, that was the money quote that got all the attention. For one thing, the lecture was the only secular event in a week of Masses and prayer services, which meant that reporters really only focused on this one talk. For another thing, any mention of Islam by the leader of the Catholic Church gets major headlines, especially if the mention is a criticism.

This has got the Islamic world up in arms, especially considering his trip to Turkey in November, and so the Vatican is engaging in some damage control. This morning, the papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement, emphasizing that the point of the Pope’s quotation was to refute religious motivations for violence. He said, “It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful.”

The Pope—and Manuel II—were right the first time

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