Papacy Moves from Dialogue to Damage Control

September 17, 2006

Source: TIME Magazine,33009,1535812,00.html

On September 17, 2006 TIME Magazine reported, "One of the signature buzzwords of John Paul II's papacy was 'dialogue.' So committed was he to seeking common ground with leaders of different faiths that he all but institutionalized the process in 1986 by hosting the first of a series of interreligious gatherings in the medieval Italian town of Assisi. It was well known in Vatican circles that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, among the Pope's most loyal lieutenants, was lukewarm to the Assisi enthusiasm. The German Cardinal was, after all, among the world's most rigorous (and traditionalist) Catholic theologians, skeptical of any attempt to water down differences among faiths. Still, when that same theologian became Pope Benedict XVI, he understood that the hard-won lines of communication with the world's other faiths must stay open. But rather than dialogue, the Pope now faces the need to perform major interfaith damage control. The outcry in the Muslim world that followed his provocative lecture last week on faith and reason--and the origins of holy war--is evidence that the 79-year-old Benedict needs to work on the diplomatic requirements of his new job. In the speech at Regensburg University, he opened a much broader theological exploration by quoting these words of a 14th century Byzantine Emperor: 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"