Doctrinal Ideological Roots of Pope’s Attitude towards Islam

The Catholic church in Rome believes, for some centuries, in the infallibility of the pope who heads it; so, no a written document, improvised speech or statement are issued without gathering information, study, discussion, wording and revision; nothing is declared except after guaranteeing – within limits of human abilities regardless of their infallibility- that the church won’t be forced later to retreat from it, let alone apologizing for it; it’s well-known that some of the Church’s biggest historic mistakes weren’t healed with a formal apology, except after hundreds of years on them. So, the papal offense to Islam shouldn’t be interpreted as unintentional, word by word and at this time in particular; also, it shouldn’t be exaggerated and to be given beyond its meaning in the context of the lecture which contained it; in both cases, debating around a superficial apology is useless; assuming that it was issued, this will not mean changing the bases of the Vatican Pope’s attitude.


Who is Benedict Xvi?


His original name is Joseph Alois Ratzinger; he was born on 16-4-1927 AD of a religious Catholic family, in Bavaria, the most famous in Germany in terms of the spread of Catholicism and sticking to it now and before; he still boasts that his baptism took place quickly on his birthday so as to be from “Easter water.”

He was sixteenth years old when he expressed its desire to become a priest; those who mentioned that he has “a Nazi past ” cites his work at the service of the Nazi army for constructing barriers against tanks in Austria neighboring Bavaria, till the last days of the Second World War; since 1941 AD he belonged to “Hitler’s Youth “; actually, belonging to this organization was a coercive duty on the young pupils in specific institutes, like ” Saint Michael ” in which he was studying.


Ratzinger joined university later to study Catholic “theology ” and philosophy, and he showed from an early age his interest in philosophical – religious writings, especially the legacy of the religious philosopher “Augustines “, who was in the fourth century A.D. a main source of theorizing the clerical teachings of the Trinity and establishing them in the Catholics and Orthodox, before the two teams separated due to disagreements on details of those teachings later on.

Ratzinger got the doctorate in 1953 AD in religious sciences, and professorship degree in 1957 AD in the branch of ” bases of the religions science “, and he started the teaching the following year, the so called clerical doctrinal impositions / dogma and its history; in 1959 AD , he started teaching in Boon university with a lecture entitled “Belief God and philosophy god “; then in 1969 AD in the university of Regensburg (in which he delivered his lecture on 12 / 9 / 2006 which included offending Islam); in 1977 AD, he became the archbishop in the same city; in this period, he met for the first time his predecessor John Paul II, shortly before the latter became pope in Rome .

In the period that gathered his university study and clerical positions, his clerical trends started to make shape, including a stress that the Catholic pope must take into in the consideration the body of the church while taking his decisive decisions, criticizing seclusion and centralism in the clerical decision making. But “reforming the church ” towards ” a democratic approach” did not last for long, but it declined relatively in his attitudes and writings later on; he attributes this to his being affected by past clashes with the supporters of the so called ” the revolution of students “, and at that time he was labeled as ” a conservative” in the church; this classification points in the first degree to his social stances, that’s  his outright refusal to liquidate the church attitude in issues of sexual relationships, especially the spread of codifying sexuality in many Western countries at that time, in addition to his refusal to women’s joining top Catholic clerical ranks .

During the presence of ” cardinal Ratzinger ” in the Vatican, he was described as the right hand of Pope John Paul II, due to his responsibility for the so called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith“, it is the name that chose to a complex that responsible in the past for directing heresy charge against those the church decides to sentence. This period reinforced the ” rational ” side in Ratzingr’s personal convictions, and his name was related the church’s decision in 1998 AD a decision of opening the archives about the history of trials that killed in the Middle Ages many scientists and opponents .


He ascended the Holy See on 19-4-2005 to face a number of tasks tied to inquiries; how will the church’s policy in his era be, after it got a new form and a persistent movement in the era of his predecessor, John Paul II, who remained in the Holy See for more than 25 years. The most important of which are three:

1-Reviving clerical values in the official policies at the expense of secularism after the spread of a phenomenon of popular “religiousness” on the international level .

2-Dealing with the responsibilities of the US domination campaign and camping it internationally, which is connected with concepts of “Christian Zionism”, and enmity to Islam in particular.

3-The centralism of the Catholic church site in Rome ( one of his first decisions was abolishing the word ” Roman ” from the Roman Catholic pope title ), and consequently centralism of its role on the map of Christian sects and doctrines and the map of dialogue with ” the Other ” doctrinally and culturally .


Benedict Xvi and Islam


The Catholic pope uttered an accidental compliment word on a meeting with international religious leaders, days after he appointed pope of the Vatican, as he expressed his gratitude that there were those who represent Islam among them, and his appreciation to the dialogue between Muslims and Christians .


Apart from this, nine months passed over Joseph Ratzinger as a Catholic pope called Benedict XVI without his issuing anything that explains his attitudes towards the main issues that he faces with his church and the state of Vatican, including the issue of dialogue in general, and with Islam in particular.

Most of his published stances are the outcome of studies done by other authorities that study his papal policies in the Vatican against his thoughts and stances before he was shouldered with this responsibility; here we should distinguish between:

1- An official attitude issued by an official in the Catholic church, as he usually issues its expected attitude, regardless of his personal attitude and a possibility of its more or less contradiction with or bias from the official attitude.

2- A personal attitude, that usually appears during discussions or in specific occasions, as it expresses a one’s independent attitude, that may affect the clerical decision making according to responsibility of its owner, this means increasing its effect on decision making through his reaching the Holy See .

One of the most prominent examples on a official attitude on the level of the dealing with Islam, was issued by Ratzingr while he was second-in-command in the Vatican ; he stated that Islam was for a long period of time superior to Christianity in scientific and technical fields, thus expressing the response of the Vatican country and its church to the speech of ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, regarding the superiority of Western civilization, that raised a fuss at that time, and was issued in the peak of the campaign that US President George Bush launched against Islam and Muslims, after the bombings of New York and Washington, to the extent of calling them as “a Crusade.”

One of the other examples was Ratzingr’s saying in an interview:” Islam is a multi-diverse and it can not be confined between terrorism or moderation.”

Regardless of the personal conviction, Ratzinger’s public attitudes then were representing the trend that the Catholic church decided to itself during the era of John Paul II, including opposing the US military campaigns and spreading the US hegemony through them internationally, under the pretext of ” the war against terrorism ” and during that period in particular, namely in the first three years after the bombings of New York and Washington, the church in Rome adopted the call for interreligious dialogue, Abrahamism in particular, after dealing with “Islam” remained within framework of the interreligious dialogue in general .

As for the personal attitude, expressed- consequently- out of a personal view and a conviction, it isn’t easy to trace in the life of a clerical officiale; we may find many from Ratzinger / Benedict Xvi about clerical issues that were raised, but what is related to Islam and the way of dealing with it or containing Islam and the stance towards it, are rearely found, the most important what Daniel Baebs speaks about in ” New York Sun ” on 17-1- 2006, according to priest Jozeph Disew, who participated with the –then relatively new-pope in a clerical seminar around Islam in September 2005 AD and says that it hasn’t witnessed him in similar seminars ( held under his management since 1977 AD ), entering the discussion in a quiet way and after listening to others, On the other hand in that seminar, he objected quickly and directly to the idea ” that Islam can develop” tabled in the seminar according to  viewpoint of a Pakistani Muslim cleric; Benedict Xvi said- objecting from the beginning of the discussion, the following ” the Word of Allah is according to Muslims an eternal word as it is, not liable to adopt with the new developments or interpretations, whish is a key difference with Christianity and Judaism, as the Word of Allah at them was entrusted to human beings, and they were authorized to change it to agree with new developments”.



The offense to Islam


Turks demonstrate in protest at pope’s talk about Islam


As for the personal attitude attributed to the Roman Catholic pope, Benedict Xvi, it was issued months ago within framework of ” an internal clerical seminar “, this means that it was issued without taking in to consideration the media, popular and political reactions, the nearest to know his attitude towards Islam; when he says in it that it is ” not developable”, we can concluded that the premature and wrong understanding of Islam is completely in harmony with the general line of the core of what he said as ” a lecturing professor ” in Regensburg university, which presented him as specialist with professorship degree ; that’s he isn’t supposed to say any word randomly or without any bais.


Therefore, it isn’t correct to ask: what do the words mean, because they are clear, expressing a view that rejects Islam.

Also, it does not mean that they related to an outright rejection to what the spokesman of the Catholic Church tried to apologize for indirectly… When he said for example that: the Catholic pope did not mean to offend, as in reality the problem from the beginning isn’t in ” his intention ” but in the content of his speech .

– Or he said also that understanding the words should be considered within their context as they were uttered in ” a lecture ” at an academic level, and this is right and for this they can not be considered “studied”.


The topic of the lecture is the favorite topic now and before for Benedict Xvi, that is a reconciliations between ” science and religion ” or ” mind and belief “, an old and new “clerical problem”, prompting therefore his talk about Islam in the lecture – at best interpretations- due to the example, that he wanted to mention to say that a contradiction (according to him) between religion and mind prevents dialogue with others.


He quoted a Byzantine emperor from the Middle Ages, the prelude of Constantinople conquest at that time has a significance; his not attracting the attention to the content of the quote mean nothing, as the debate raised by those  criticizing Islamic reactions in this respect is useless, claiming that Benedict Xvi did not use his own words about Islam, as choosing a quotation is important, and the German the Catholic pope who can speak German, to a German public, on a German land, can if he wanted anything other than the “content” of the quotation, quote, for example, some of what German Tsar Guillaume II said about Islam less than one century ago, instead of quoting Byzantine emperor Emanuel II six centuries ago, or another example said by Goethe, Germany’s most noted poet and man of letters and many other German and non German famous philosophers in the age of European ” Enlightenment”.


Speaking about the Pope’s offense to Islam shouldn’t lead us to inquire: did it happen or it did not happen?! . Was its intentional or unintentional?…what is necessary is:


1- A quiet and objective understanding of what the Roman Catholic pope Benedict Xvi said as it is, in body and soul, according to its public apparent meaning and the political, intellectual and doctrinal backgrounds.

2- Establishing the required Islamic attitude in the long run, according to bases of Islamic interests, and expressing it according to requirements of the Islamic interests, exceeding limits of instant responses that interacted directly with the incident, something that needs another essay.



*Political writer and analyst


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