We were justifiably cheered by Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey and his acknowledgement of the ecumenical nature of the Istanbul-based Orthodox Patriarchate. But we should not forget that these gestures are nothing more than a means for the pope to achieve an ambition he had when still…
We were justifiably cheered by Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey and his acknowledgement of the ecumenical nature of the Istanbul-based Orthodox Patriarchate. But we should not forget that these gestures are nothing more than a means for the pope to achieve an ambition he had when still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
For the current pontiff, the greatest enemy is neither the “schismatic” Orthodox Church nor Islamic fundamentalists. The new pope feels that the real threat comes from within. The enemy, as noted in a Vatican statement, is “secularization, relativism and nihilism” – as if these three things were one and the same.
Pope Benedict XVI has a dream: to Christianize the history of Europe, to show that the miracle achieved by the West is “modernized Christianity.” Of course, no one can doubt the fact that Christianity constitutes a basic component of Western civilization; neither can the pope hush up the fact that this Western culture of freedom, tolerance, letters and science was born because the Catholic Church lost the furious battle it waged against the forces of progress.
As Benedict proclaims, the roots of Europe are not Christian. Europe became what it is by defending its independence from religious dogmatism.
The Vatican was not tolerant of this progress by the West. To be precise, it burnt those who promoted such progress.
We can guess what Europe would have become if the “forces of secularization” – which the pope is fighting today – had lost the wars of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The sun would still be rotating around the earth, Isaac Newton would not have become who he was and every “heretical” thought would be banned. There would be hardly any distinction between East and West.
We should be thankful that after so many centuries of religious wars, the pope has declared that his faith supports human rights and condemns killing in the name of religion. If we look at the history of the West, we will see that it has made the most significant contribution in terms of secularizing religion and thus bringing it closer to the people. There is no secular fundamentalism. The priority of individual freedom has made the West what it is – a region of tolerance, prosperity, understanding and constant searching. It is certainly far from the perfection many had aspired to but the struggle continues and, most importantly, is permitted to do so. This is what we should protect from fundamentalists – whether they come from the East or the West.
KATHIMERINI English Edition, 07/12/2006