Lighting Iran’s Fuse
Religion is back on the agenda of international relations. The latest example of this reality occurred in Bavaria in September, with the visit of the pope to his home state—a visit that ignited a fire sure to burn for a long time to come.
For three centuries, religion was shoved to the background as children of the Age of Enlightenment strove to develop a scientific approach to creating peace between nations. But their best efforts climaxed in the 20th century with the most devastating wars in mankind’s history.
Political scientists still largely regard religion as passe. But it is now clear that, while they were looking for the formula for world peace, religion was working behind the scenes for a mighty comeback! That comeback was to be sourced within, and stimulated by, two great religions: Roman Catholicism and pan-Islamism.
The great revivals of these two historically clashing religions began for the religion of Rome with the convening of its Second Ecumenical Council, Vatican ii, from 1962 to 1965, and for the Islamists with their June 1967 war against Israel.
While Rome chose the way of dialogue and diplomacy to revive its universalist goals, Islam chose the way of war and terrorism. Since 1962, the Vatican has worked through diplomacy, by employing its excellent international intelligence network, and by exercising more open dialog with its wayward Protestant and Orthodox daughters to achieve its goal of the universal conversion of mankind. At the same time, since the Israelis withdrew from the territories they occupied in 1967, Islamists have been blowing up airplanes, blowing up embassies, blowing up their enemies by blowing up themselves, in their efforts to achieve the universal salvation of mankind in the name of Allah and their prophet Mohammad.
Four decades on from those events of the mid-1960s, we see religion back with a vengeance as a real power in international relations.
“A Deep Spiritual Experience”
To the casual observer, the pope’s numerous speeches during his six-day visit to Bavaria, September 10 to 15, were a litany of homilies from a well-intentioned, if aging, religious leader. To the careful observer of history and to any student of the lifetime machinations of Joseph Ratzinger’s clerical career, they spell out an agenda. The ongoing effects of the pope’s visit have shown how powerfully he used that occasion to clarify his papacy’s future direction on matters destined to have a most significant global effect on religion and the international political order.
As one long-time Ratzinger watcher observed, “Pope Benedict has an extraordinary gift for expressing complex ideas in simple ways, and although I’ve been reading and enjoying his work for years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the series of homilies and speeches he has given this week” (Phil Lawler, editor, Catholic World News, September 12).
Upon perusing the media reports, one has to agree with Mr. Lawler. In Bavaria, the pope strove to establish a middle ground from which to speed the opening up of the ecumenical dialog with Protestant and Orthodox Christians that was initiated at Vatican ii. After having a private audience with Edmund Stoiber, the devout Catholic prime minister of Bavaria who has lobbied for the Sudetenland to return to German control, Benedict promised to visit the Czech Republic in the near future. His audience with Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Germany’s present government head the opportunity to assure the Roman pontiff that injecting “Christianity” into the European Constitution would be a top priority on Germany’s agenda during its six-month presidency of the European Union commencing in January. The papal audience with Germany’s President Horst Kohler extracted support from the pope regarding presidential concerns about the impact of Islamic penetration into German society.
Whether it be ecumenism, pan-Islamism, the traditional connection between Germany and Rome, religion versus secularism, the need for Europe to return to its Roman Catholic roots, the juxtaposition between the Vatican’s view of Christ and of the virgin Mary, or be it politics in general, the pope covered it all in just six days. It was his most concentrated series of public addresses of real consequence in the whole of his reign thus far. As Benedict himself proclaimed September 17, his visit to Bavaria was a “deep spiritual experience.” Deep indeed! The results are still reverberating around the globe months later!
Yet one has to look for the spice peppered throughout Benedict’s public dissertations in Bavaria to detect much of the reason for the profound effect this visit has had on both the pope and the public. As Joerg Beyer of the Ecumenical Network group observed, the pope isn’t as overtly confrontational as he was in his prior position: “Contrary to his style at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … he now phrases things in a very clever way to avoid unnecessary friction” (Reuters, September 14).
Experiences such as the Bavarian visit are progressively revealing this pope as a man for all seasons. Though he did indeed address some issues purely by allusion, others he addressed quite confrontationally, principally his pet theme of adjuring Europe to return to its religious roots and, most particularly, the burning issue of Islamic extremism!
A Challenge to Islam
Intriguingly, Benedict chose to address the quite separate and distinct challenges that secular rationalism and Islamism pose to the church in one powerful speech he delivered at the University of Regensburg. That speech has been the source of many a commentary since.
With few exceptions, opinions in the world media and press have ranged from the proposition that the pope was ill-advised to use such inflammatory words, to the prospect that he did not really mean what he actually said. Few analysts have really come to grips with the pope’s true intent in his deliberate choice of the quotation he used that upset Islamists worldwide, neither why he chose that particular quotation, nor why he chose that particular time to use it in the manner he did.
At the university where he once taught theology, before a group of scientists and scholars, Benedict spoke on a theme consistent in his writings: that Christianity welcomes intellectual inquiry and deeply values truth.
What is fascinating is how the pope introduced this subject of the dichotomy between reason and faith. He opened his lecture by really going for the Islamic jugular! In his opening remarks, he clearly identified the divide that to his mind separates Islam from Christianity by quoting two documents: first the Koran; then a scholarly argument of the 14th-century Catholic emperor of Byzantium, Manuel ii Paleologus, which attacked the “holy war” concept of Mohammad.
Thus, rather than come out publicly with a direct papal condemnation of pan-Islamism (the greatest present threat to Roman Catholicism), this calculating pope chose a quote from a well-documented historical occasion, one that came out of the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire—one that was bound to stir Islamic ire.
Speaking on the question of faith versus reason, Benedict referred to “part of the dialogue carried on—perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara [Turkey]—by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel ii Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both” (Catholic World News, September 12; emphasis mine throughout).
It is important to note here that in the course of his speech the pope indicated that Christianity—to his mind, Roman Catholicism—“always reveres the truth” (ibid.). So what was he really saying about Islam’s approach to truth?
Continuing his speech, Benedict reasoned: “In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ … [H]e addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammad 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.’ The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God,’ he says, ‘is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. … Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats …. To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.’
“The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature” (ibid.).
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Benedict concluded his nearly-4,000-word speech with a reinforcing, for effect, of that latter statement: “‘Not to act reasonably … is contrary to the nature of God,’ said Manuel ii, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is … to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.”
That is really throwing down the gauntlet to the Islamists! Reading between the lines, the pope is endorsing the notion that Islam is an irrational faith. He would not view Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a rational being! He is clearly inferring that his own god is the only rational one, and that dialogue between Islam and Christianity can only be within the framework of the reasoning and reasonableness of this god of the world’s Christian [Catholic] religionists alone.
Surely the pope knew such comments were bound to light the fires of protest in every Islamic country throughout the world!
Think on this. This pope is known for his brilliant intellect. This was a well-thought-out speech, prepared in advance of the event. These remarks about the Islamic faith were not off the cuff. The choice of Manual ii’s statement was both deliberate and calculated—calculated to get a reaction!
And what a reaction it received! Public demonstrations broke out in Turkey, in Iran, in the Islamic communities in Britain and on the continent of Europe. Effigies of the pope were burned in the streets and al Qaeda was reported as calling for the pope’s death. Vatican City stepped up security within and around the papal state.
Demands that the pope retract his remarks and make a public apology to Islamists were many. The Vatican released a prepared statement by the pope in which he carefully claimed he regretted the reaction his speech caused, but avoided apologizing for the remarks themselves.
Why would this pope, this German pope, choose this moment—in this, his own home state of Bavaria, the very heartland of Catholicism in Middle Europe—to draw his verbal sword against Islam?
Think. Consider. Reflect.
Reflect on history.
Reflect on the nature of the Germanic peoples. They hate disorder. They are expert at creating a crisis then initiating a solution, as that inveterate watcher of Germany Rodney Atkinson has often observed.
The pope knows that if Rome is to return to its former glory (a vision he shared with his predecessor Pope John Paul ii), given the present disordered state of the world, he needs urgently to unite his over 1 billion faithful who have suffered for decades from the impact of divisive secular thinking on their religion. He knows the best way to do this is to unite Catholics at their historic cultural base, the European continent! He knows that Islam poses the greatest threat to Catholicism in Europe. He sees this as his greatest cause—that he has been chosen for this moment!
What better way to unite Europe and return it to its former imperial days of glory than to provide people with a single common cause that overrides all else and counteracts all tendencies for division?
So, in his own very Germanic way, Benedict, this Bavarian pope, has simply lit the touch tape to an already smoldering issue of concern to all Europeans, the threat of Islamic jihad.
Our news bureau sifted through all available commentary from the best of sources following the pope’s speech at Regensburg. Few were those who really saw what Benedict was up to. One astute observer, a student of history and international politics, did. The following analysis, from Dr. George Friedman, gets to the very essence of Benedict’s speech. It is worthy of the space we give it here, for it endorses much of what the Trumpet has indicated about Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict xvi, that we have observed and published since we began watching him from clear back in 1992!
Speaking on the pope’s choice of the quotation from his 14th-century source, Friedman observed: “The essence of this passage is about forced conversion. … Clearly, Benedict knows that Christians also practiced forced conversion in their history.
“… Benedict’s words were purposely chosen. The quotation of Manuel ii was not a one-liner, accidentally blurted out. … [T]here is no question that anyone who read this speech before it was delivered would recognize the explosive nature of discussing anything about Islam in the current climate. …
“[E]ven the pope had to work hard to come up with this dialogue. There are many other fine examples of the problem of reason and faith that he could have drawn from that did not involve Muslims, let alone one involving such an incendiary quote. …
“As a deliberate choice, the effect of these remarks could be anticipated. Even apart from the particular phrase, the text of the speech is a criticism of the practice of conversion by violence, with a particular emphasis on Islam. Clearly, the pope intended to make the point that Islam is currently engaged in violence on behalf of religion ….
“Consider the fact that the pope is not only a scholar but a politician—and a good one, or he wouldn’t have become the pope. He is not only a head of state, but the head of a global church with a billion members. The church is no stranger to geopolitics. Muslims claim that they brought down communism in Afghanistan. That may be true, but there certainly is something to be said also for the efforts of the Catholic Church, which helped to undermine the communism in Poland and to break the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe. Popes know how to play power politics” (Stratfor, September 19).
So, what are this pope’s true intentions?
The Last Crusade
In his unmatched analysis of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech, Dr. Friedman hints at a prospect that the Trumpet, in particular our editor in chief, has maintained as a theme throughout this magazine’s existence. Gerald Flurry wrote in August 1998, “Most people think the crusades are a thing of the past—over forever. But they are wrong. There is going to be a final crusade, and it is going to be the bloodiest one of all! … Any child should understand that the fruits of the ‘holy wars’ have been diabolical! There is no excuse for America and Britain not knowing the truth.” We believe the evidence proves this pope has sparked the crisis that will, inevitably, lead to Rome’s final, great crusade against its old Islamic foe.
Dr. Friedman expressed it this way: “From an intellectual and political standpoint, therefore, Benedict’s statement was an elegant move. He has strengthened his political base and perhaps legitimized a stronger response to anti-Catholic rhetoric in the Muslim world. And he has done it with superb misdirection. …
“The pope has thrown a hand grenade and is now observing the response.”
Students of history will recall that Benedict has simply taken a leaf out of Pope Urban ii’s book. In 1095, Urban called for the knights of Europe to stop fighting each other and to join a holy war against Islam. Referring to the Ottoman Islamists as “a race … which has neither directed its heart nor entrusted its spirit to God,” he declared it was a Christian duty to “exterminate this vile race from our lands” (Robert the Monk, Historia Iherosolimitana). Upon purging the eastern empire of the followers of Mohammad, the knights were to liberate Jerusalem from Islam.
Similarly, Pope Benedict has set himself the task to unite the fractious nations of the European Union, and he proposes to rally the leaders of these disparate nations to stop squabbling with each other and direct them to make common cause against the spreading tide of Islam that threatens the very continuity of the EU.
It was thus most significant that, when the United Nations called for the EU to provide troops for an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, following the Hezbollah/Israeli imbroglio earlier this year, that the papal newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, publicly aired concern at the slowness with which nations responded. The papal organ called for nations to rally with a heightened sense of the urgency of the moment to the UN call. Shortly after, they did. EU nations soon promised more troops and military hardware. Most significant was the German contribution—naval and air force—notwithstanding Germany’s publicly declared reluctance to enter the fray when first asked to do so. What started off with the offer of a few hundred military personnel by Germany soon escalated to the thousands!
The Lighted Fuse
Most do not even begin to comprehend that which is now building in the Middle East, the tensions greatly exacerbated by Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech. One who does, an ex-Catholic nun, well versed in the history of the Crusades and their significance to the present-day situation, claims that abundant evidence exists to prove that “the irrationality and hatreds of crusading are far from dead.” Her views are remarkably similar to the point Benedict made in his Regensburg speech: “[W]e must not take these religious passions lightly or dismiss them as the crazed fantasies of an eccentric minority that cannot long survive in our enlightened world,” she says. “There is no purely rational explanation or solution to this problem” (Karen Armstrong, Holy War).
But it is Armstrong’s conclusion to her detailed analysis of the connection between the Crusades of old and the rising reaction to jihad, such as what was sparked by Pope Benedict xvi, that are worthy of note. Her words are a dramatic endorsement of the forecasting by our editor in chief of a great final crusade ahead, and of its apocalyptic nature: “Obviously the religious passions of the Middle East are no longer always amenable to rational control. The area has become a tinderbox that could ignite into a nuclear holocaust, if this extreme spirit were allowed to get out of control” (ibid.).
Pope Benedict has lit the fuse to that tinderbox. Islam will reap the whirlwind. The flames will not now be quenched until a force far more powerful than the gods of both Islam and Roman Catholicism enforces the eradication of jihad and crusading “holy war” forever.
Beyond the great nuclear conflagration soon to come lies the answer to all the crusading efforts of mankind—by religion, by rationalist thought, by science—the final conclusive answer as to why man has never learned the way to world peace, the ultimate solution to that seemingly unsolvable problem of humankind.
Write now for your own copy, gratis, of Mystery of the Ages to discover for yourself that earth-shaking solution, and learn how you can contribute to bringing it about!