Another Islam-Christian Blow-Up on the Horizon?
"While Christians respect Islam and desire to dialogue with Muslims," Pope Benedict XVI's private secretary says, "[we] must act to protect the Christian identity of Europe."
Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the Pope's secretary, was interviewed in Friday's edition of Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazine. Though the interview covered many different issues, his comments about Islamic influence in Europe, and what Catholics should do about it, may prove to be the most controversial.
Msgr. Ganswein was asked about Pope Benedict's September 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, and its criticism of violent trends within Islam. Though the Pope may have intended to warn against religious terrorism, his remarks aroused fury throughout the Moslem world, developing into actual violence in several places. Arabs in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas attacked seven Christian churches, a nun was murdered in Somalia, a call for the Pope's death was issued in London, and Iraqi groups threatened the Vatican.
"I believe the Regensburg speech, as it is known, was prophetic," Msgr. Ganswein told the German magazine, because it countered a "certain naivete" among people who do not recognize that various currents exist within Islam.
"Attempts at the 'Islamification' of the West cannot be denied," he said, according to an English translation in the Catholic Explorer. "And the associated danger for the identity of Europe cannot be ignored out of a wrongly understood sense of respect... The Catholic side sees this clearly and says as much." True respect, Ganswein said, is shown in a dialogue with Muslims that is frank, open and honest.
The Pope's speech in Regensburg included a quote from a 14th-century Christian Emperor, who said, "Show me just what Muhammad 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." Several days afterwards, the Pope related to the speech and the storm it caused. He did not apologize or retract his words, but rather expressed his "deep regret" at its consequences, saying the quote was misunderstood to be his own opinion. He also noted his "high regard" for Islam.
It remains to be seen what type of Islamic reaction will be caused by the papal secretary's warning against the Islamification of Europe and the "associated danger for the identity of Europe."