Commentator sees subtle Pope criticism of Iran, China

In his address last week to the diplomatic corps, Benedict XVI left out the names of Iran and China, but Italian journalist Sandro Magister argues that his speech nevertheless contained forceful criticism of the two countries.

Magister says in his online column on the website of the newsmagazine L'Espresso that the silence over Iran was initially pointed out with disappointment by Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben-Hur, in a declaration later corrected and purged of its polemical overtones.

But Magister believes that the Holy Father referred to Iran and China in at least three passages.

He referred to China when he urged "the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology," and denounced the absence of religious liberty: "in some states, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions."

As for Iran, where the pope asserted that "the state of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law" it was easy to see a condemnation of the Iranian demand to "eliminate" Israel, expressed recently by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But he sayd a reference to both of these countries could also be found in another key passage of the pope's speech.

It is the passage in which Benedict XVI pointed to "political systems of the past, but not only the past, [...] a bitter illustration" of a dominion "which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy."

Truth, and the rejection of it, were the pivot of the pope's entire speech.

Commenting on it in the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Vittorio E. Parsi, the expert on international relations for the newspaper, wrote that by "making truth the hinge of foreign policy," the pope's address to the diplomatic corps showed itself as "strongly Ratzingerian in its style and content."

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16 Jan 2006