Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bertone, the Papal Fireman

Some first day on the job for the new Secretary of State. He's already apologizing for the Boss.

This morning, Holy See released a lengthy statement under the signature of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, "adding" some points to the already-released comments of Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican Press Office.

The hope is, of course, that by putting the heft of Bertone's new role behind the words, it will extinguish the recent unpleasantness once and for all; the Pope was said to be "extremely sorry" that his words at the Tuesday lecture in Regensburg had been taken out of context and caused offence to the Muslim community.

Don't be mistaken, however: the headline may bear Bertone's name, but text appears to be straight from the pen of the man who installed him in San Damaso.

The following is the Whispers translation of the message from its original Italian, maintaining all its emphases of text.



In light of the reactions on the part of Muslims to some parts of the discourse of the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg, and the clarification and precisions already offered by means of the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, I wish to add the following:

-- The position of the Pope on Islam is unequivocally that expressed in the conciliar document Nostra Aetate: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting” (n. 3).

-- The option of the Pope in favor of interreligious and intercultural dialogue is likewise unequivocal. In the encounter with the representatives of some Muslim communities in Cologne on 20 August 2005, he said that this dialogue between Christians and Muslims “cannot be reduced to an optional extra,” adding that: “The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity.”

-- As for the judgment of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, reported by him in the Regensburg discourse, the Holy Father absolutely did not intend nor does he intend still to make it his own, but only to utilize it as an occasion to develop, in an academic context and allowing for that which happens from a complete and attentive reading of the text, some reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general and concluding with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation to violence, from whichever side it may come. It bears repeating in this regard what Benedict XVI himself recently affirmed in the commemorative message of the 20th anniversary of the interreligious encounter of prayer for peace called by his beloved predecessor John Paul II at Assisi in October 1986: “demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time… In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions.”

-- The Holy Father is therefore greatly sorry [vivamente dispiacuto] that some parts of his speech have been made to sound offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers and have been interpreted in a way not at all correspondent to his intentions. Besides, he, in light of the fervent religiosity of Muslim believers, admonished Western secular culture to avoid “the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom” [homily at Munich, 10 Sept 2006].

-- In confirming his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam, it is his wish that they may be aided to understand his words in their right sense, that, however surpassed by this difficult moment, they may reinforce the witness to the the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; and the collaboration to “to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom” (Nostra Aetate, n. 3).