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    » 05/04/2007, 00.00


    Benedict XVI and Khatami: the good trail is Regensburg

    Bernardo Cervellera

    Today's meeting at the Vatican between Mohammad Khatami and Benedict XVI was held under the banner of the "dialogue between civilizations." Iran's former president has for years been working for such dialogue which involves the clear expression of identity, profound respect for the religious element, and a critique of mathematical and materialistic reason. From this point of view, today's encounter is very much in line with the speech that the Pope made at Regensburg University last September.
    Pope Benedict XVI's masterly lecture tended in fact to highlight a widening of reason that, by going beyond anti-religion Enlightenment thinking ("irrational"), allows for rich and fraternal dialogue with extra-European and non-Western cultures. At the same time, the Pope showed that violence is "irrational" and is therefore worthy neither of God, nor of man, nor of any religion, Islam included.
    The fuss which resulted from the Regensburg speech was fuelled by liberalist Westerners and islamist Easterners and belittled the profoundness of Benedict XVI's proposal so as to make it appear a simple dispute between Islam and Christianity, with the latter "obviously" unable to understand Islam and accusing the Pope of having fomented a "war of religions."
    At that time, Khatami was among the few Muslims leaders – the first – to distance himself from the protest rallies and attacks of the Islamic world, asking everyone "to read the Pope's entire speech, before criticizing it." But, because of the tensions created by malevolent interpretations of the Regensburg address, his visit to the Vatican, initially planned for last November, did not take place.   Today's meeting heals a wound and sends the message that "dialogue between civilizations" is stronger than the "clash of civilizations."
    But it is only a partial healing. Where in fact healing is slow is in the liberalist Western world where, to avoid questioning its blind closure to the problem of Godless reason, it continues to rail against the Catholic Church and the Pope, and justifies the many forms of violence committed in the name of Islam, fomenting a new war of religion with Islam.
    In their ideological blindness, a good part of the so-called "progressive" intellectuals says that the causes of terrorism are American imperialism, colonialism, the state of Israel, globalization. But in this way they do not realize that Islamist terrorism strikes well beyond the West: Buddhists in Thailand, Hindus in India, Muslims themselves, both Sunni and Shia. Even violence against Palestinians does not only come with an Israeli stamp, but also derives from a power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
    Thanks to this blindness in Europe – and in Italy – we are witnessing a veritable alliance between progressivism and violent Islamism. In the name of anti-Americanism and multiculturalism, people are calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, from Afghanistan, and are justifying the violence of males against Islamic women and polygamy. Again yesterday, the Pope was ridiculed in the European Parliament, while great caution was exercised when it was a question of the anti-Mohammad caricatures. And while a benevolent attitude is being preached with regard to a violent Islam, an intransigent and intolerant attitude is spreading against the Catholic Church, "guilty" of displaying crosses and nativity scenes and of expressing its view on life and family in the ("liberal"?) society.
    The encounter between Benedict XVI and Khatami shows that dialogue is possible if parties do not hide their identity and work for the good of men and women. To do this, it is necessary that, from East to West, we condemn violence, always and regardless, while guaranteeing religious freedom.  
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    See also

    14/10/2005 VATICAN - ISLAM
    Vatican tells Islam: "Let us continue on the path of dialogue"

    To mark the end of Ramadan, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has sent its customary message to the Muslim community. Highlighted are a commitment to peace, the memory of John Paul II and the direction taken by Benedict XVI along the same path.

    18/09/2006 IRAN - VATICAN
    Not all Teheran behind ayatollahs in anti-pope criticism

    In the eyes of many Iranians, Benedict XVI enjoys considerable moral prestige for his criticism of the links between religion and violence. But Christians face the threat of increased marginalization.

    17/09/2006 ISLAM – VATICAN
    Amid criticism and violence the first balanced views about the Pope's speech appear
    Former Iranian President Khatami and current Indonesian President Susilo warn against jumping to conclusions.

    04/05/2007 VATICAN - IRAN
    A dialogue between cultures in the meeting between the Pope and Khatami
    Benedict XVI and the ex Iranian President spoke among other things about the Middle East and the current situation of Christians. A strong international commitment to serious negotiations which respect human rights and aims to build mutual trust is hoped for.

    17/12/2008 VATICAN - ISLAM
    Catholics and Muslims should increase mutual trust and educate young people to peace
    Conclusion of a meeting at the Vatican with the World Islamic Call Society. Preventing possible crises from degenerating into interreligious dialogue. The encouragement of Benedict XVI.

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