No winners in Benedict polemic, says Melkite archbishop

Defending the Pope's Regensburg speech and questioning Muslim reaction, Melkite Archbishop Issam John Darwish says that Christians and Muslims are both losers as a result of the events of the last few days.

In a statement on Wednesday to SBS television, the Archbishop said the only victory for the moment is for "those who do not wish to see Muslims and Christians at the one table in brotherly dialogue planning for a better future for humankind".

Expressing his particular distress over the torching of churches in Palestine and the killing of an Italian nun in Somalia, Archbishop Darwish in the statement said that the Pope's address "must surely rank amongst the most important statements concerning inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue"

"If we read the text of the address with care and without haste, paying particular attention to its contents, we cannot but conclude that the Pope's are directed at those educated in philosophy, theology and the human sciences," Archbishop Darwish said.

"It is obvious that the address is formed very much by the Pope's personal philosophical background - a philosophy firmly grounded in the best traditions of Hellenism.

"He speaks of a an authentic meeting between the true enlightenment and religion - and that this meeting of enlightenment and religion was one of the foundational components of western civilisation.

"However, as much as we might admire western civilisation, that does not mean that it is beyond criticism," Archbishop Darwish says.

Bearing this in mind, "the first question to be asked is, Why have we faced such an extraordinary reaction from some of our Muslim brothers?", Archbishop Darwish asks.

He says it is "distressing" that Muslim violence came from those "seem not to have read the Pope's address in an objective way."

The Archbishop also assailed Western and Arabic media for its bias and unethical reporting, singling out the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Abrabic network.

"It is also very disappointing that those who worked to direct a negative public response at the Holy Father forgot - or wanted to forget - that the Vatican strongly opposed the war in Iraq, and, indeed, that the Holy See has been generally supportive of Arab and Muslim positions in matters of justice, especially the problems faced by the Palestinians," he said.

"As an Arabic Christian, it is perhaps that I am more sensitive what happens outside the Arab world, despite my sorrow at the assassination of an elderly religious sister in Magadishu," referring to the Italian nun shot in Somalia.

"However, I cannot understand the behaviour of some of our Palestinian brothers who torched several Churches in Ghaza. They did so at the very time when the Holy See has been and will continue to be attentive to, and supportive of, their cause," he said.

He says he agrees with the Pope in hoping this week's controversy might "open a door on a new era of dialogue and understanding between the Christian and Islamic worlds."

Archbishop Darwish (Statement to SBS, 20 September 2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Issam John Darwish, Curriculum Vitae
Melkites Australia

Sorry Benedict reiterates "deep respect" for Islam (CathNews, 21/9/06)
World leaders bid to hose down flames of Benedict controversy (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Australia's moderate Muslims a sign of hope, Pell says (CathNews, 19/9/06)
Benedict "deeply sorry" for Muslim outrage but violence continues (CathNews, 18/9/09)
Benedict tells priests to serve Christ and be His voice (CathNews, 15/9/06)
Religious violence contrary to God's nature, Pope says (CathNews, 14/9/06)
No chance of world without reason, says Benedict (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Benedict says learn Gospel from Africa and Asia (CathNews, 11/9/06)
Benedict heads home to Bavaria, Germany (CathNews, 8/9/06)

22 Sep 2006