Pope Benedict stepped into the controversy over Islam and violence Tuesday, citing historic Christian commentary on holy war and forced conversion.
The German Roman Catholic Pope quoted from a book recounting a conversation between a 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and an educated Persian on the truths of Christianity and Islam.
“The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war,” the Pope said. “He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached’.”
Pope Benedict XVI weighed on the delicate issue of rapport between Islam and the West. He said that violence, embodied in the Muslim idea of jihad, or holy war, is contrary to reason and God’s plan, while the West was so beholden to reason that Islam could not understand it. In a major lecture at Regensburg University in Germany, where he taught theology from1969 to 1977, he said Christianity was tightly linked to reason and contrasted this view with those who believe in spreading their faith by the sword.
Several Vatican watchers believe the Pope’s speech seemed to reflect the struggle of Vatican over how to confront Islam and terrorism. The 79-year-old Pope pursues what is often considered a more provocative, hard-nosed and skeptical approach to Islam than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. In his speech, the Pope used language open to interpretations that could inflame Muslims, at a time of high tension among religions and three months before he makes a trip to Turkey.
See also Islam Online, 13 September 2006
Robert Spencer applauds this example of “anti-dhimmitude from Pope Benedict XVI”.