The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pope Benedict in Jerusalem

Some people just don't get it, do they? Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, a judge in the Palestinian Authority and a perennial rabble-rouser whose past public diatribes always seem to urge his people to acts of violence, simply couldn't resist.

Yesterday in Jerusalem, at an interfaith meeting designed to promote constructive dialogue among Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Sheikh launched into another of his verbal attacks on Israel. The presence of Pope Benedict at the meeting didn't slow Tamimi down as he commandeered the microphone for his rant despite efforts to shut him up. The following is an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post story describing the event:

A leading Palestinian cleric commandeered an evening devoted to interfaith dialogue with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday to rant against Israel for “killing Gaza’s children,” “bulldozing Palestinian homes” and “destroying mosques.”

In an impromptu speech, delivered in Arabic at the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, chief Islamic judge in the Palestinian Authority, launched a 10-minute tirade against the State of Israel for confiscating Palestinians’ land and carrying out war crimes against the residents of Gaza.

He also called for the immediate return of all Palestinian refugees, and called on Christians and Muslims to unite against Israel.

Tamimi invoked the name of Saladin, the Muslim sultan who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187. Tamimi said that unlike Israel, Saladin upheld the religious freedoms of all faiths.

Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises. However, he shook Tamimi’s hand before walking out.

The pope, speaking before Tamimi, discussed the importance of religion and truth for the advancement of humanity’s mutual understanding.

He was visibly uncomfortable with the tone of Tamimi’s discourse. Even those who did not understand his Arabic quickly understood that the Muslim cleric was giving a militant speech.

Several attempts were made by Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land Fouad Twal, a Palestinian, to politely stop Tamimi. But Tamimi would not be deterred from reading his written speech, apparently prepared in advance without the knowledge of the organizers.

I wonder what the Sheikh's (and the world's) reaction would have been had the Pope invoked the names of such Crusaders as Godfrey of Bouillon or St. Louis (King Louis IX). After all, from the Christian perspective the Crusades can certainly be viewed as legitimate defensive wars waged to protect Europe from further aggression by Islamic armies of conquest and to reclaim Christian lands that had been conquered through force of arms. That so many people today believe otherwise is just further evidence of the effectiveness of the anti-Christian propaganda that permeates our media and educational establishment. Yes, we are all expected to nod approvingly when a Muslim cleric invokes Saladin, but let no Christian, whether Pope or lowly deacon, say anything positive about those who opposed the 12th Century sultan. (Pope Benedict, of course, would never be so rude.)

How did the old Chinese curse go? May you live in interesting times.

God's peace.

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