Just before composing this daily message, I have read the statement of the Holy See given to the world in the Vatican News Agency’s report concerning the now-famous speech given by Pope Benedict XVI last week in Germany.
The Holy See does its homework well: it is able to quote the Holy Father’s recent remarks about the importance of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation and the respect that we human beings owe one another and our various creeds. It points out that the Holy Father was quoting from an ancient statement by a Byzantine Emperor, indicating that for centuries, Islam has been perceived as trying to spread its faith by the sword rather than by peaceful and persuasive preaching.
However, all that being said, I have no doubt that the Holy Father knew perfectly well that his words would be taken out of context and would be used as an excuse on the part of some Muslims to excoriate the Catholic Church, and perhaps do more damage than that. If we read carefully his words following that statement, we will find him saying that he is sorry that his words were misinterpreted as being an expression of his own feelings. I don’t think that we will hear the Pope say that he is sorry for saying them. He is not a stupid man who knows nothing of history or the current inflammatory situation in the world, as some of his enemies have asserted. He is the Vicar of Christ who knows that his duty is to preach constantly the gospel of his divine Master. And because he is the head of an international religious community — the Catholic Church — and an international political community — the State of Vatican City which maintains diplomatic relations with most of the nations on earth — he is probably the best-informed person on earth in terms of what is happening on this planet of ours.
On the night before Jesus’s death, when Saint Peter tried to defend his Master by drawing a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the High Priest’s soldiers, Our Lord said to Peter, “Put away your sword; those who take up the sword, die by the sword.” That must be the teaching of the Pope, too. And if the world is to know peace, it must be the policy of every human being. The events of 9/11, which were the work of Muslim extremists, are not going to bring peace into the world. The assassination attempt upon Pope John Paul II, which was the work of a Muslim extremist, will not bring peace into the world. On the other hand, the work of men and women of good will — be they Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever — can bring justice, peace, and harmony to this sorry world of ours. To quote Our Divine Lord again, “Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall be called the children of God.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.