I think Rick Moran was too categorical in his remarks today when he said that
"what is surprising about Benedict's challenge is that he had given no inkling up to now that he was interested in rocking the boat when it came to relations between Rome and the Muslim faith."
Not exactly. A year ago the Pope had a secret audience with Oriana Fallaci who, as readers of this site know well, dedicated her life post September 11th to expose the West to the dangers of Islam.
Pope met Oriana Fallaci privately on Aug. 27 at Castel Gandolfo
Furthermore, earlier this year the Pope devoted a large part of a conference with cardinals to the Islamic questions. Bear in mind that much of the Popes thinking and communicating on the matter of Islam is being done by surrogates.
ROMA, April 10, 2006 — One of the four topics considered by Benedict XVI and the cardinals during their day 'of reflection and prayer' at the last consistory, on March 23, was Islam. Or, more precisely: 'the position of the Catholic Church, and of the Holy See, in the face of Islam today.'
...some of the cardinals afterward remarked that much more concern was shown than in the past over the challenge that Islam presents to Christianity and the West, and that there was general agreement with Benedict XVI's energetic opposition to terrorism and the violation of religious liberty.
One month earlier, on February 20, pope Joseph Ratzinger received Morocco's new ambassador to the Holy See, Ali Achour, and made a vigorous appeal for the rejection of violence and for full respect for religious liberty, 'in a reciprocal manner in all societies.'
And on March 22, on the eve of the consistory, the pope, acting through his secretary of state Angelo Sodano, had sent to the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, an urgent request for the liberation of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan citizen condemned to death for converting to Christianity.
Another example: "For Benedict XVI, Islam is capable of reform and can be harmonized with modernity. But at a steep price."
Alan Fraser 9 19 06