I’ve been thinking quite a lot about our new Pope, and wondering at his diplomatic skills, which seem non-existant to some, but which are impressing me as being very subtle, but honed.
It is true of popes, presidents and parents: each find themselves needing to respond to every age as their gifts best allow. John Paul the Great was a gatherer, the shepherd pulling in the flock, getting them all rounded up, in all of their various stages of growth, health and hardiness. Perhaps Benedict will be the shepherd who, finding the herd gathered together, will begin the process of vetting the sheep who are in need of intervention but still quite save-able, from the sheep who are perhaps so fully infected that they pose a health-risk to the rest of the herd. It will be interesting to watch.
That said, I like this piece a lot – Joseph’s analysis of where Benedict XVI’s head is with regards to Islam.
Pope Benedict XVI’s installation mass included two indications of a radical change in the Vatican’s strategy toward Islam and Islamist terrorism. In his greeting the new pope welcomed fellow Catholics, other Christians and Jews – but not Muslims.
Later, two selected people delivered intercessory prayers for oppressed Christians. One of the prayers was in Arabic.
What did these gestures mean? The era of de-facto appeasement under pope John Paul II is over. The era of subtle, discreet, yet firm confrontation has begun.
In dealing with Islam, expect the new pope to exhibit the same tact he displayed in the Vatican’s response to Islamic terrorism. When the United States led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Ratzinger joined the rest of the Vatican in expressing opposition and advocating mediation through the United Nations.
YET RATZINGER’S criticism was more muted than the opposition from other Vatican officials…
Ratzinger: “We are very happy it turned out this way. It was not possible to foresee what might happen; with chemical weapons, anything was possible. But now, we can begin again.” (Zenit, Vatican-based news service, April 10, 2003)
The future pope also demonstrated his discretion with equally muted public support for John Paul’s policy toward Islam: “It is important not to attribute simplistically what happened on September 11 to Islam. It would be a great error. It is true that the history of Islam also contains a tendency to violence, but there are other aspects, too: a real openness to the will of God. It is thus important to help the positive line, which does exist in its history, to prevail and to have sufficient strength to win out over the other tendency.”
Three weeks after John Paul’s death, however, come intercessions in Arabic for oppressed Christians.
In Benedict, Islam will confront not a desperate ecumenist but a papal Bismarck adept at the German chancellor’s ultimate tactic: the velvet glove concealing the iron fist.
You’ll want to read it all. Joseph makes some excellent observations. Very impressive!