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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Does the Middle East really need a visit from the Pope?

I am not a Christian—at least, not in a formal sense—but I do lament the fate of Christianity in the Middle East. Sadly, Christians once made up 20 per cent of the population, but now account for only about 2 per cent.

Christians have for over 2,000 years been associated spiritually and physically with what, to them, is the Holy Land for there can be found the origins of their faith. Now, after centuries of multi-sectarian, and tolerant history of Islamic culture, Christians find their presence there threatened by religious extremism, intolerance and the so-called clash of civilizations—not in small measure sparked by the one-sided support Israel has received from the “Christian” nations of the West.

Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the Middle East on May 8 is his first visit there as Pontiff and has raised the hopes of many that the Christian exodus of the past 60 years might be stemmed.

However, it seems very likely that what remains of the Middle Eastern Christians have given up looking to the likes of the Pope for help. For, while the Pontiff has described his trip as a spiritual pilgrimage, his recent action in lifting the excommunication of Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson and the proposed sainthood of pope Pius XII, who Jews revile for his passive stance during the Holocaust cannot be helping Christian-Jew relationships.

And as we read at Time:

In Lebanon, the Middle Eastern nation with the largest concentration of Christians, roughly half of the country’s Christians have broken away from the sect's traditional, pro-western leadership, and have formed a political alliance with Hizballah, the Shia Muslim anti-Israeli militant group. The leader of these breakaway Christians, a populist former General named Michel Aoun, is betting that the only way to secure a Christian future in Lebanon is to look East towards the rising power of Shia Islam. It may seem far-fetched now, but there may come a day when Christians hit the Arab street to welcome not a Pope from Rome an ayatollah from Iran.

At a time so critical to the survival of a Christian presence in their Holy Land, it’s ironic that the spiritual leader of the largest Christian denomination could turn out to be the least helpful to that cause.

6 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. "the proposed sainthood of pope Pius XII, who Jews revile for his passive stance during the Holocaust"

    This was a fabricated myth. This pope saved more Jews than Schindler.

    Anyone who has done any real research on this issue and continues to spread such an outrageous lie is a Catholic hater.

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  2. The sooner these people get jobs and a real education, pulling them kicking and screaming from the dark ages they’re in, the better.

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  3. Dante, in your world, can one have negative views about anything without "hating" it?

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  4. In my world, smearing a holy man who did good things is way out of bounds.

    There are so few people who actually make a difference in their lives and some people seem to have a need to tear them down too.

    Shouldn't I stand up against such slander or should I lick the boots of the anti-theists (or anti-Catholics) to demonstrate my secular credentials? In your world is it easier to repeat such lies rather than have the courage to speak out against them?

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  5. God works in the most MYSTERIOUS WAYS and this visit by the POPE is one of them.


    HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

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  6. Dante, I don't know that anyone is asking you to "lick the boots" of anyone.

    You are accusing people of being "a Catholic hater," just for having views different from your own.

    I was alive during the Second World War and have been a keen student of history since then. My personal experience informs me that an opinion that the Roman Catholic church and its Pope at that time was too passive during the Holocaust is a valid one. Many Roman Catholics disagree—fair enough. I've read extensively what both sides have to say and find that both have valid reasons for their points of view. The fact does remain that many Jews are distressed that Pius XII, in particular, should be singled out for sainthood.

    For you to accuse me and others of being "a Catholic hater" is at best adolescent and at worse bigotry.

    Many of my family are Roman Catholics—I hate none of them. I was welcomed into a Convent school as a child and am forever grateful for the kindness of the nuns—I don't hate any of them.

    You wrote: "In your world is it easier to repeat such lies rather than have the courage to speak out against them?"

    How dare you? Because you want to defend the Roman Catholic church, you accuse me of repeating lies and not having courage? Your presumptuousness is quite appalling.

    The only slander—as you call it— here is your apparent narrow mindedness and inability to accept opinions contrary to your own.

    So let's agree to disagree and move on.

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