The Pope’s intriguing words.
A momentous digression.
By Paul J Cella Posted in Culture — Comments (8) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Yesterday in Regensburg, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI uttered these words in a lecture:
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.
Admittedly, he was quoting — a point he emphasized several times — the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, from a dialogue with an unnamed Persian Muslim. But this selection can hardly have been accidental. Manuel II was the father of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine Emperor, a brave and pious man who died on the wall of the great city when the Turks finally overran it. Manuel also undertook a fateful journey in the early 15th century to the courts of Europe, a journey that amounted chiefly to beggary: he needed aid from the West or his city (for he was an emperor with no empire) would fall. More humiliating than even this — and the tragic enmity between Greek and Roman churches in that age should not be underestimated — was another event, before Manuel’s ascension to the imperial throne: as a subject of the sultan, owing him tribute, Manuel and his army were obliged to join the Turks in the reduction and conquest of the last free Greek city in Anatolia, Philadelphia.
It would be difficult be discover in history two more tragic figures than Manuel and his son, the men who ruled when the dying embers of Rome, once pagan, now Christian, once Italian, now Greek, were finally trod out.
The Pope’s speech, according to reports, largely consisted of another complicated entreaty to the West to retreat from that gaunt secularism which has issued in an abiding ignorance of all things than cannot give an immediate account of themselves at the bar of rationalism. Anyone not committed a narrow rationalism, “see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions,” and this, warned Benedict, is a “dangerous state of affairs.” Indeed it is. But it is hard to put down the suspicious that the Pope knew well that his little digression into the question of Islam would be the headline-maker.