You gotta hand it to Pope Ratzinger; whatever else he is, he’s a shrewd political operator. Whispers of anti-semitism arising from his short spell in Hitler’s employ needed to be nipped in the bud. And in these polarised times, there’s no better way to say “I Heart Judaism” than sticking it to the Muslims.
And stick it he most certainly did. I mean, quoting Manuel II Paleologus? What’s that all about, eh? There’s absolutely no reason at all to cite that old Muslim-basher other than to piss off Islamic theologians. Manuel II was a Byzantine emperor who, historically speaking, is chiefly remembered for two reasons… one; he temporarily halted the decline of the Byzantine Empire by restructuring its finances and consolidating its remaining power, and two; he didn’t like Muslims very much.
This second item is best illustrated by his decision to have the mosque in Constantinople razed to the ground in the early 1400s. And as the Pope recently reminded us, Manuel II had a less than respectful view of Mohammed. “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman…”
Now, it seems that the Pope chose to quote Manuel II in order to introduce the view that it is impossible to spread the Word of God through violence:
“God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats…Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections – Pope Benedict XVI
But are we really being asked to believe that the Pope – given the contents of the Vatican Library – couldn’t find anyone better to illustrate his “God hates violence” point than a self-acknowledged Muslim-hater who destroyed mosques?
I find the public outrage of Muslims bemusing to the point of amusing. It seems to me that the Pope – by virtue of being the leader of a global church numbering hundreds of millions of people dedicated to the principle that Jesus Christ was God and Mohammed was wrong about almost everything – is being waaay more offensive to Islam simply by existing than any citation of an almost forgotten 15th century emperor could ever be.