Pope Benedict XVI has entered his fourth week of aplogies to offended Muslims – in what amounts to a continuous-loop tape pf expiations for his remarks on September 12 linking Islam to violence. The Pope has said, in at least three public statements, that he regrets hurting Muslims’ feelings. The latest apology was made in person to ambassadors from 20 countries who assembled at Castel Gondolfo in Rome. Yet waves of anti-Christian anger in the form of sporadic violence continue in several countries.

Specifically, Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying, “Show me just what Mohammed 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.” The Pope has repeatedly said the quotation attributed to emperor Manuel II Paleologos does not reflect his own personal views. Yet in Egypt, one prominent Islamic scholar said the Pope has not gone far enough, he “must erase the quote so that future generations will not use it.”

Never mind that the ensuring rioting by Muslims resulted in a Catholic nun being fatally shot in the back as she entered a hospital on Mogadishu. Remember also the final words of one Muslim hijacking crew as their plane plunged into one of the World Trade towers on 9/11: “Allah is great.”

A papal visit is scheduled this month in Turkey, where violence and street demonstrations continue. Turkey, you will recall, is the homeland of Mehmet Ali Agca who, on May 13, 1981, pumped four 9mm bullets into Pope John II in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The assassination attempt was aptly described by a TIME magazine writer as “a strike of reptilian malice against one of the globe’s few authentic moral and spiritual leaders.” Pope John Paul somehow survived the attack, but his doctors said he suffered continual discomfort thereafter, and that the wounds most certainly shortened his life.

So far there have been no expressions of regret for Ali Agca’s barbarism 25 years ago – none by the Turkish government, the Muslim Brotherhood, or any kindred association that might conceivably deliver such a message, In contrast, in an act of supreme benevolence, Pope John Paul later visited Ali Agca in prison and forgave him.

Pope Benedict XVI has so far apologized numerous times for his speech quoting the Byzantine emperor. He admits to being “very upset” that his speech offended the sensibilities of the Muslim faithful. Yet his detractors continue to say his atonement is not “deep and persuasive enough.” But where is the apology from the other side for the unspeakable outrage committed in St. Peter’s square on that balmy May day in 1981?

– Chase.Hamil



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