Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Monday, January 09, 2006

Pope Benedict on International Relations

From Pope Leo I's confrontation with Atilla in the 5th century to Pope John Paul II's connections with solidarity and the fall of communism, the Pontiff has had a pretty big impact on the international scene (I mean in a secular context, as the greatness of his religious impact should be assumed). And as a protestant, it is the Pope's secular impact which often most intrigues me.

Pope Benedict XVI delivered his annual Message for the World Day of Peace yesterday. In it he mentioned a few things with which I disagree (mainly concerning his overly optimistic view of both the nature and function of international organizations in bringing about peace--especially as he defined peace in his speech).

But, alas, we being different people, it is not surprising that we do not agree on everything. More importantly Pope Benedict, clearly condemned terrorism and, I think, correctly identified its faults, as well as, the likely faults in the world view of the terrorists. Also, equally as important from my viewpoint, the holy father continued his great crusade against nihilism and moral relativism.

Here are but a few words from my favorite section of the Pope's message:

"Nowadays, the truth of peace continues to be dramatically compromised and rejected by terrorism, whose criminal threats and attacks leave the world in a state of fear and insecurity. My predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II frequently pointed out the awful responsibility borne by terrorists, while at the same time condemning their senseless and deadly strategies. These are often the fruit of a tragic and disturbing nihilism which Pope John Paul II described in these words: ''Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed''.(9) Not only nihilism, but also religious fanaticism, today often labeled fundamentalism, can inspire and encourage terrorist thinking and activity. From the beginning, John Paul II was aware of the explosive danger represented by fanatical fundamentalism, and he condemned it unsparingly, while warning against attempts to impose, rather than to propose for others freely to accept, one's own convictions about the truth. As he wrote: ''To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against the dignity of the human being, and ultimately an offence against God in whose image he is made''.(10)
10. Looked at closely, nihilism and the fundamentalism of which we are speaking share an erroneous relationship to truth: the nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force. Despite their different origins and cultural backgrounds, both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God himself. Indeed, this shared tragic outcome results from a distortion of the full truth about God: nihilism denies God's existence and his provident presence in history, while fanatical fundamentalism disfigures his loving and merciful countenance, replacing him with idols made in its own image. In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious and ideological motivations."

Also in what the news report describes as a foreign policy speech to Vatican-based diplomats the Pope stated unequivocally the immorality of terrorism for any cause as well as the need to push for freedom of religion in all the world's nations:

Benedict described a global "clash of civilizations" taking root and said the danger was made even greater by terrorism, whose causes he attributed to politics as well as "aberrant religious ideas."
"No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion," he said.
Benedict stressed the need for all human rights to be respected, but said religious freedom was most important because it involves "the most important of human relationships: our relationship with God," he said.
"Unfortunately, in some states, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions, freedom of religion, far from being guaranteed, is seriously violated, especially where minorities are concerned," he said.

"To all those responsible for the life of nations, I wish to state: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom!" Benedict said.


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