суббота, сентября 23, 2006

The Pope, Russians and Goths

Everyone already knows about Pope Benedict XVI's rather tactless statement on Islam, quoted from "a Medieval text which [does] not in any way express my thought," as he said last Sunday.

Well, well, if it doesn't express your thought, then why did you say that, Joseph?

(In fact, reading Pope Benedict's statements in context, it seems that Manuel II Paleologus's position is simply that holy war, as preached by certain muslims, is incompatible with religious precepts. Which leads us to the conclusion that, if Pope Benedict does not agree with such a position, he agrees with the concept of holy war as a way to convert people to religion through use of force. Maybe that would justify the whole idea of the Crusades as well.)

Whatever conclusion we reach about Joseph Ratzinger's apology, it stands to reason that it is not a very good thing to insult (or to appear to insult) a religion - any religion - during such convoluted times as the ones we are living in. No, it is not a very good thing, particularly if one's own church is being attacked in a certain powerful, rich and very hypocrite country for having preachers who are pedophiles, and for hiding that information from everybody.

Now, reading one of the news articles on this whole imbroglio, two things caught my attention:

1) "Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier urged world religious leaders to show “responsibility and restraint” to avoid what he called “extremes” in relations between faiths.

“We understand perfectly how sensitive this sphere is. I think it would be right if we call for responsibility and restraint from the leaders of all world faiths,” he said during a meeting with parliamentary leaders from Group of Eight nations in the Russian resort city of Sochi."

When I say that Putin is a very likeable former secret agent, I really mean it. He rules over what once was possibly the largest Christian (Orthodox) country in the world, which overnight became the largest atheist country in the world (until Mao's revolution in China at least), and he still manages to sound convincing and diplomatic when teaching rules of behavior to the Pope. Ok, his is a somewhat bland statement, but still praiseworthy.

2) "Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said he believed tensions over Benedict’s remarks wouldn’t result in any further heightening of security concerns. He told Italian state radio that suspected terrorist cells under surveillance inside the country were considered to be focused on targets “outside of Italy.”"

We all know that Italy's biggest resentment is over what happened in the Middle Ages. Before that, everyone was happy building Roman temples, with Roman columns and Roman friezes. But then the Middle Ages came, and by the year 1000 or 1100 those huge and heavy Gothic churches were being built all over Europe. "Those barbarians, the Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Germans, they don't know how to build churches and temples, all they can make is high towers and stained-glass rose windows." Europe had to wait until Palladio was born in order to bring back good taste to its buildings.

So, it comes as no surprise that the Italian Interior Minister doesn't seem very concerned with the risk of terrorist attacks in places like St. Peter's Square or the Coliseum. In other words, what he said is: "The terrorists we host want to attack places abroad. As long as they do not touch the Duomo in Florence and the Sistine Chapel, that's fine with us. I think Italy will live without Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the Houses of Parliament, or Austria's wedding cakes. It's about time someone cleaned up the house."