From the article:
VATICAN CITY, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, worried over increasing inter-religious violence, will host a summit of world religious leaders in Assisi in October to discuss how they can better promote peace, he announced on Saturday.
Benedict told pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square the aim of the meeting would be to “solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith in the service of the cause for peace”.
He made the announcement hours after a bomb killed at least 17 people in a church in Egypt in the latest attack on Christians in the Middle East and Africa….
“Humanity … cannot be allowed to become accustomed to discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance, which today strike Christians in a particular way,” Pope Benedict said in his New Year’s Day homily to 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Church marks its World Day of Peace.
“Once again, I make a pressing appeal (to Christians in troubled areas) not to give in to discouragement and resignation,” he said….
The attack in Muslim-majority Egypt was the latest against Christians that has worried Church officials.
On Christmas Day, six people died in attacks on two Christian churches in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and six people were injured by a bomb in a Roman Catholic Church on the island of Jolo in the Philippines.
In a message issued last month for the Jan. 1 peace day, the pope said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world today and that it was unacceptable that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith.
In November, 52 hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics captured by al Qaeda-linked gunmen.
The Vatican fears that continuing attacks, combined with severe restrictions on Christians in countries such as Saudi Arabia, are fuelling a Christian exodus from the region.
I haven’t seen the full speech, but I’m afraid Benedict didn’t single out Islam as responsible for the overwhelming majority of the violence. In this context that MIGHT be OK, as a strategic move — if he had singled Islam out then Islamic leaders could have boycotted without suffering bad publicity, while now if they don’t attend this “summit” they can be criticized there with more effectiveness. On the other hand, if they DO attend, consideration of the actual statistics is very likely to be raised at some point and they will have to squirm and publicly either justify or denounce the Islamic violence, both of which would be good things.
Still, I’d rather have seen Benedict call for a crusade. If I were to interview Benedict after this summit he is calling (for diplomatic reasons I would not ask him the question before the summit) I would say “Is Islam the enemy of Christianity?”
Benedict may not want to come out and say so if his goal is to save the lives of Christians in Muslim countries. But, technically, that is not his goal. He is supposed to save souls by bringing them to accept Christ. The destruction of Islam would result in a lot more conversions to Christianity than any other conceivable historical event (short of Christ returning). Islam is on the whole a very bad thing for the world, and from the Christian point of of view it is a bad thing for the souls of all of the Muslims too. I wouldn’t mind Benedict saying that not all Muslims are necessarily damned to hell; but a hell of a lot more of them would be than if they were Christians, if Christianity is true. It’s too bad the church doesn’t declare anti-saints, but if I were Benedict I would say that if anyone is in hell then Mohammed is.
I believe that Benedict may personally agree with this and that his diplomatic tact has its limits, and that he may be giving Muslim leaders this cordial invitation in preparation for denouncing them when they don’t reject violence. He might even draw a careful distinction between the right to violently defend one’s faith and the right to violently impose it — even though Christian doctrine says that one should not renounce one’s faith under torture, it doesn’t say it’s not OK to kill the people who want to torture you, if you can.
But unless I see progress from him in this direction, I am going to be very disappointed. And if he says anything like Muslims shouldn’t convert or that there is anything holy about the Koran, I’ll switch to Orthodoxy.