Pope Benedictus XVI appeared sincere enough when he appeared Sunday before the crowds waiting in the rain outside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. His remarks of being “deeply shocked and saddened” by the angry reactions of Muslims all over the world will hopefully calm things down a bit before Muslims resort to further violence against Christians and church property â€“ whether Catholic or not. All Christians were in danger from outraged Muslim mobs, and this was indicative of their burning effigies of the Pope and committing some acts of vandalism against churches in Muslim dominated countries, including two churches in Gaza. The Gaza churches, by the way, were not Catholic; which made the Pope’s quick apology even more important.
The Pope’s remarks, in which he stated that the quoted words from the 14th century medieval text did not reflect his personal opinion, makes one wonder why they were uttered in the first place. After all, doesn’t His Holiness have both speech writers, as well as person advisors in respect to possible Islamic sensitivities that might result from this kind of rhetoric? Even though he said he had ‘felt at home’ within the academic confines of the German university in which he addressed the faculty and student body, he should have taken into account that reporters would be present, and perhaps a number of Muslims as well (academics, professors, and the like).
As a result of this ‘slip of the tongue’ Vatican officials, including the Pope himself, are more acutely aware of the growing strength, and influence, of Islam all over the world; including this reality in Europe. Italy, once under nearly complete dominance by the Catholic Church, who even had control of what was known as the “Papal States”, now find themselves being encroached on by Muslims from North Africa (especially Egypt, Libya and Morocco) and other countries as well. Mohammad Habib, an official in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, said that he accepted the Pope’s apology but “would like to know the Pope’s personal views concerning Islam”.
In light of the events of the past few days, however, these ‘views’ will most likely not be forthcoming; although an acceptance of the Popes apology by one such high official in an organization such as the E.M.B. is a good sign that the international Muslim community is interested in restoring calm. In the future, Benedictus XVI will most likely be a bit more candid in his remarks regarding Islam.
This episode doesn’t begin to hide the fact that there are definite strains emerging between two of the world’s largest religions, whose combined followers make up around 45% of the entire population of this planet. Islamic terrorism, on the rise since the now infamous “9-11” attacks in America, will cause further stress between the world’s Christian and Muslim communities. These kind of remarks, even if made ‘out of context’ do not help efforts to bring about any kind of reconciliation; and only add more fuel to a fire that is now progressing well beyond the ‘smoldering embers phase’.