Friday, April 29, 2005

The New Pope

It´s a bit of patriotic pride, I guess, and yes, I am happy that the new Pope Benedict XVI is former Cardinal Ratzinger.
They say, he is a reactionary just like the former Pope John Paul II was a reactionary. It depends what you call a reactionary in my opinion. I read the former Pope´s messages on peace and on poverty and they sure didn´t sound reactionary to me. But yes, there are those views about sexuality, feminism and liberation theology. I´ll get into those topics in another post.
Here I would like to let Pope Benedict talk for himself, with my own thoughts attached.
On April 25, 2005, after talking to representatives of the Eastern Christian churches, he talked to those of other faiths:

I turn now to you, dear friends from different religious traditions," said the Holy Father in English, "and I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration of my pontificate. ... I am particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level. I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.
The world in which we live is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing. Yet peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
Benedict XVI concluded by inviting all present "to become together artisans of peace, of a reciprocal commitment to understanding, respect and love." -V.I.S.

The above quote made it it quite clear, that the catholic Church will not support any kind of modern "Crusade" or "Fight of Civilisations". By emphasizing especially the dialog and the building of bridges between Muslims and Christians you can be sure that this was not just a diplomatic meaningless gesture, but he was making a point.
Cantrast this "bridge building speech" to Bush´s "fire speech" at his inauguration.
Peace as a duty for all those who profess to belong to religious traditions, is an obvious counter towards Bush and his followers of Christian and Jewish Zionists.
By the way in an interview Bush gave after the last Pope´s funeral he said:
"I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion..."
This for sure is the opposite legacy of what Bush himself will have.

Here are excerpts from Pope Benedicts inauguration homely:
Talking about the "pallium" which would be placed upon his shoulders as a liturgical symbol, symbolizing both the "yoke of Christ" and the "lost sheep" he said:

"The symbolism of the pallium is even more concrete: the lamb's wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. For the Fathers of the Church, the parable of the lost sheep, which the shepherd seeks in the desert, was an image of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The human race - every one of us - is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way.
The Son of God will not let this happen; He cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition.
He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the Cross. He takes it upon His shoulders and carries our humanity;
He carries us all -
He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.
What the pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd's mission, of which the second reading and the Gospel speak. The pastor must be inspired by Christ's holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.
The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning. In the ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished.
When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, Himself became a lamb, He stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how He reveals Himself to be the true shepherd: 'I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep,' Jesus says of Himself (Jn 10:14ff). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God's sign: He Himself is love.
How often we wish that God would make show Himself stronger, that He would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God's patience. And yet, we need His patience. God, Who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified Him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man...."

Yes, the Pope does see the salvation of men more in the spiritual than in the political realm, however by using the words "the powers of exploitation and destruction" he also shows critical inside into the reasons for the miserable state the world is in right now.
The Pope puts love as the opposite of power. And I think he is right. The world cannot be got off the destructive path, it is on right now, by just another power struggle.
We have seen, that in China and the Soviet Union a violent power struggle towards the supposedly humanistic and universalist goal the Marxist ideas represented has brought on in both countries and their satellites immense suffering for exactly those people who should have profited, the poor, the peasants.
And in both countries when the governments reversed to capitalistic goals, for the majority nothing of the idealist mindset of universalism was left.
An ideology based on power struggle is just not capable of creating an altruistic mindset neither in its adherents nor in the people they want to convert.
A philosophy however, based on the idea of unconditional love, even love of enemy, is far more likely to change the attitude of the surrounding society towards universalism and egitalism in the long run.
And this is where God´s patience comes in: Change doesn´t come suddenly it takes time. The Church herself, after she had become state-religion for the Roman Empire, took far more than a thousand years to change herself from a political to a moral authority. And this is where the strength of religion lies, in ethics.
Human progress must lie in human ethics, it cannot lie in human power of some over others, no matter who those some are. History has shown us, that power corrupts men - nearly all of them.