Friday, August 19, 2005

John Allen Speaks

The Hardest Working Man in the Business participated in a WashPost forum earlier from Cologne, answering questions about B16's first foreign trip. Snips:

Austin, Tex.: I saw some interviews with some of the young people. Of course the people who spoke may not have been representative, but it was very clear that even in this self-selecting group, a lot of those kids don't take the Pope's stand on social issues (contraception, homosexuality, etc.) very seriously.

And they're presumably a lot more sympathetic to the Church's teaching than the young people of Western Europe in general.

I see trouble brewing. More specifically, I think the Church in Western Europe is basically finished.

I assume you disagree. Can you convince me?

John Allen: Well, it's not my role to agree or disagree, and certainly the numbers can be read to support your conclusion -- declining Mass attendance rates, declining numbers of priests, virtually no influence on public life, etc. (Though there are of course exceptions to all of those trends). I think what Pope Benedict has in mind is what he's called Christianity as a "creative minority" -- it may no longer be a mass phenomenon, but if it can generate a core of dedicated, passionate believers, it may still be able to exercise an outsized impact on the culture. I suppose it's that core one sees here in Cologne. You're quite right, many of these youth may have different ideas on some specific issues, but by and large they seem genuinely enthusiastic about the church and their faith. What that translates into when they go home, of course, is a different question.

Allen answers a Dominus Iesus question with a touching story from today's visit to the Cologne Synagogue.

Detroit, Michigan: No matter what gestures the current pope makes toward other faiths, his record as the Vatican's doctrine expert (as Cardinal Ratzinger) will make other faiths suspicous. The "Dominus Iesus" which he authored was not the type of document that brings faiths toward understanding and compassion toward one another. In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger at the time stated that theologians were "manipulating and going beyond the limits of tolerance when they put all religions on the same plane".

I don't think the Vatican today is attuned to the sensitivities of other faiths. Another example, was the canonization of Edith Stein. She did not die in the Holocaust as a result of her Catholism: it was because she was born as a Jew and the Nazis viewed her as such. It is probably too much to hope that the Vatican will honor a Catholic who lost their life at that time for having saved jews (that is what Israel honors as "righteous gentiles").

John Allen: You rightly point to a number of serious, and as yet unresolved, in the Catholic Church's relationship with other faiths, perhaps especially Judaism. Yet I was at the Cologne synagogue today, and what I saw convinced me that people on both sides genuinely want healing and better ties. When Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum said he was extending his hand to Benedict as a sign of peace, the place erupted. As the pope was leaving, a man wearing the traditional Jewish yarmulke and tallit sprinted towards his car and planted a kiss on the window. Such gestures tell me that despite the challenges out there, hope endures.

Well, the Pope is attuned to the sensitivities, seemingly more than his predecessor was.... And Allen dropped word that a trip to Istanbul to visit Bart seems highly in the offing.

UPDATE: A Turkish daily is reporting that B16 will visit Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew -- patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate -- at the end of November.... Tip to Jacob.



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