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February 21, 2007
Is the pope modifying his stance on Islam?
Pope Benedict XVI appears to be modifying his approach to the Muslim world, according to an analysis appearing the publication Our Sunday Visitor and featured on the website Catholic.org:
Call it a change of substance, call it a change of tone, or call it simply a change – Pope Benedict XVI’s publicly stated view of Islam has undergone a remarkable transformation in less than five months.
This is the pope who last September quoted without disagreement a 14th-century Christian emperor’s complaint that Mohammed had accomplished nothing but “things evil and inhuman.” Now Pope Benedict calls for Christians and Muslims to work together in the cause of peace.
This also is the churchman who before becoming pope opposed Muslim Turkey’s admission to the European Union. Now he looks favorably on having Turkey a part of that grouping of 27 European nations joined for political and economic cooperation. [….]
The papal turnaround began in reaction to the furious Muslim response to his Regensburg talk, continued via fence-mending remarks and gestures that included praying in a historic mosque during his trip to Turkey, and has kept up since then.
That doesn’t mean Pope Benedict has simply thrown in the towel as a critic of Islam. Rather, as he has done often before, so also he has made it clear that Islamic terrorism is beyond the pale of civilized behavior. “War in God’s name is never acceptable,” he said in his 2007 World Day of Peace message.
The picture now emerging of where Pope Benedict stands looks something like this: Fearful of a cataclysmic clash between extremes – a hollowed-out, secularized West and jihadist Islamic fundamentalism – the pope hopes to promote entente between reasonable, responsible Christians and Muslims as an alternative.
Evidently, too, he thinks Catholicism can be a model to Islam, showing how a traditional faith can adapt to the modern world while remaining true to itself.