Religious violence contrary to God's nature, Pope says

Overcoming the split between faith and reason is the key to overcoming both jihad and Western secularism, Benedict said in a wide-ranging lecture, but the Vatican has denied that the Pope's comment about the Prophet Mohammed was an attack on Islam.

During his lecture at the University of Regensburg Germany, where he taught theology from 1969-1977, Pope Benedict cited criticisms of the Prophet Mohammed by a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II, who was debating a learned Persian.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," Benedict quoted the emperor as saying.

"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable," the Pope said.

"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul," he added.

However, according Catholic World News, the director of the Vatican press office has urged reporters to note that the Pope's lecture was not an attack on Islam.

There are "many different positions" within the Islamic world, observed Fr Federico Lombardi, including support for non-violence.

When he argued that violence contradicts religious faith, the Vatican spokesman said, the Pontiff was not issuing a blanket condemnation of Muslim beliefs.

Vatican explains Pope's core message

The more important message of the Pope's address, Fr Lombardi continued, was the plea for an end to the split between faith and reason.

He suggested that the Pope was tracing the same arguments put forward by John Paul II in his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio, in opposing "the marginalisation of faith by modern rationalism."

That same message, Fr Lombardi continued, was evident in the Pope's address earlier on Tuesday, during a homily at Mass in Regensburg, when he underlined the "reasonable character of belief."

The Pope, he said, was making a "clear and linear" exposition of the Christian understanding of God.

In the speech at the University of Regensburg, the Vatican spokesman said, the Pope "did not want to give a lecture interpreting Islam in a violent sense, but affirming that when there is a violent interpretation of religion, we see a contradiction with God's nature."

In discussing the concept of jihad, he said, the Pope was using a rational analysis to criticise the use of faith to incite violence.

Later in his lecture, the Pope also criticised trends in philosophy dating back to the Reformation of the 16th century which began a process of "dehellenisation" that Pope Benedict says has gradually cut modern Christian theology and philosophy from its roots in ancient Greek thought.

Only by restoring our comprehension of reason as understood by the Greek philosophers and of the logos of St John can we hope to overcome the split between faith and reason that underlies both Islamic fundamentalism and modern secularised Western science, the Pope said.

Islam not condemned in papal speech, Vatican spokesman says (Catholic World News, 13/9/06)
Jihad is contrary to God's plan, pope says (International Herald Tribune, 13/9/06)
Pope lashes evil of jihad (Herald Sun, 14/9/06)
Faith, Reason and the University, Memories and Reflections (Radio Vaticana, 13/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
University of Regensburg
Manuel II Palaeologus (Wikipedia)

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)

14 Sep 2006