Spanish bishop says dialogue not possible with extremists

Two European bishops have drawn a line in the sand over Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict's controversial Regensburg remarks with a Spanish bishop saying it is not possible to dialogue with the "most belligerent strain of extreme Islam".

Writing in the Mainz Archdiocesan weekly newspaper, Cardinal Karl Lehmann (pictured), head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, said demands and threats from Muslim critics, based on a misinterpretation of the Pope's recent comment about Islam, must cease if fruitful dialogue is to be reinitiated, Catholic News Agency reports.

Accusing Muslim critics of mounting a campaign against the Pope following a 26 September call issued by the 56-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference for Pope Benedict to retract his Regensburg statement, the Cardinal writes that "these open or hidden threats have to stop."

"Obviously we have to start at square one because we're not talking here about important contents of a necessary dialogue, but about the fundamental requirements for one to succeed," the Cardinal wrote.

"There is freedom of religion and speech in our civilisation. The Pope can also be criticised. But there are elementary rules that apply for factual and fair contacts with each other and with clear statements," he wrote.

"One cannot constantly repeat completely unfounded misunderstandings when the texts are so clear," the Cardinal added.

A week ago, the German Catholic Bishops Conference also issued a statement saying that "the Catholic Church and many people in our country and around the world, who respect and defend the right of free speech, will not be bullied".

In a further sign that European bishops are hardening their positions, Bishop Jesus Sanz of Huesca and Jaca, Spain, wrote in a pastoral letter this week that it is not possible to dialogue "with the most belligerent strain of extreme Islam - nor similarly with any terrorist group - much less establish any accord".

Bishop Sanz argued that "alliances between some heterogeneous civilisations are impossible, and the best-case scenario is only that there will be mutual respect, but nothing more".

The Spanish bishop noted that the Pope's intention was "to encourage us to soar with those two wings of faith and reason; to soar above our past errors or our present narrow-mindedness".

"The Pope has only said what any good, sensible person who loves freedom and truth would say," Bishop Sanz emphasised.

"That religion and violence do not mix, but religion and reason do", because "faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit is lifted toward the contemplation of the truth".

"However, when faith becomes irrational or reason arrogantly closes itself to the mysterious, "violence in name of a false faith becomes possible, making God an accomplice of every kind of barbarism, or making the ideology of race or nation the pretext for every kind of political, economic or cultural totalitarianism. Such examples abound," he said.

German prelate says Vatican-Muslim dialogue must start from scratch (Catholic News Agency, 5/10/06)
Dialogue with extreme Islam not possible, says Spanish bishop (Catholic News Agency, 5/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Text of Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture
Cardinal Karl Lehmann (Wikipedia)
Bishop Jesus Sanz (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Benedict stands firm despite calls to "retract or redress" (CathNews, 29/9/06)
Pope to meet Muslim ambassadors today (CathNews, 25/9/06)
No winners in Benedict polemic, says Melkite archbishop (CathNews, 22/9/06)
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)

6 Oct 2006