Pope Wins Muslim Applause in Mideast: But Some Dynamics of Papal Trip Reinforce Catholic/Jewish Tensions

By Allen, John L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, May 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

Pope Wins Muslim Applause in Mideast: But Some Dynamics of Papal Trip Reinforce Catholic/Jewish Tensions


Allen, John L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


After every papal trip, but especially the high-wire act that Benedict XVI performed May 8-15 in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the obvious question is: How did the pope do? Putting things that way, however, overlooks an important point, which is that it's not just the pope who had something to gain or lose.

The bully pulpit of the papacy, the institutional support of the Vatican, and the sympathy of more than a billion Catholics worldwide are hardly prizes to be sneezed at. Thus, another way to frame analysis is: How did Benedict's hosts do?

On this trip, there were at least seven groups with something on the line: Muslims, Jews, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab Christians, Hebrew-speaking Christians, and the other Christian churches of the Holy Land.

While the pope tried to offer something for everyone, the clear winners at trip's end seemed the Muslims and the Palestinians. It's an especially ironic result, given that beforehand, many Palestinian Christians not-so-quietly grumbled that the Vatican was bending over backwards to accommodate Israeli sensitivities.

Yet in the end, the Palestinians could tout repeated endorsements of the "two-state solution" and sharp criticism of the Israeli security wall. Meanwhile, acerbic reaction in some Jewish circles to Benedict's speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial left some of the pope's men wondering, "Will anything we say or do ever be enough?"

The Vatican's favorite Muslim

Benedict's outreach to Muslims began in Jordan, where he repeatedly called for building bridges. The highpoint came with his visit to the Hussein bin-Talal Mosque in Amman, only the third time a pope has entered an Islamic place of worship.

During that visit, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the king's cousin and a global leader in interfaith relations, cemented his profile as the Vatican's favorite Muslim. Ghazi thanked Benedict for his expression of regret after a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, in which the pontiff quoted a Byzantine emperor linking Muhammad with violence. In effect, Ghazi declared the book on Regensburg closed.

Perhaps the only tense moment came in Jerusalem May 11, when local Sheikh Tayssir Attamimi hijacked an interfaith meeting to deliver an anti-Israeli diatribe, which a Vatican spokesperson denounced as "the negation of dialogue." Yet when the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Ahmad Husayn, made some of the same points the next day, but without the vitriol, the Vatican complimented him on his tone.

On the Muslim "street," Benedict's support for Palestinian sovereignty drew applause, as did his criticism of the West Bank wall--which he indeed called a "wall," and not the preferred Israeli term, "security barrier." At a Palestinian refugee camp that abuts the wall, the pope called the construction of such barriers in an interconnected world "tragic," and later said the wall was "one of the saddest sights" of the trip.

Arab commentators exuded enthusiasm. Bahrain's Gulf News said the pope offered "the best words possible," while Lebanon's Al Mustaqbal wrote that Benedict "perhaps did not completely cancel out Regensburg," but he certainly improved his profile. Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian negotiator, called Benedict's statements "a step, a huge step, in the right direction."

Impact on Catholic/Jewish relations appeared more mixed.

Benedict's visit came in the wake of controversy over a Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson. The pontiff started mending fences during his arrival remarks in Tel Aviv, recalling the 6 million Jews killed. At the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem the same day, Benedict said the suffering of Holocaust victims must "never be denied, belittled or forgotten."

Nonetheless, the Yad Vashem speech drew mixed reviews, mostly for what the pope didn't say: No reference to Christian anti-Semitism; no reflection as a German who saw the rise of National Socialism; no regret for the Williamson affair.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pope Wins Muslim Applause in Mideast: But Some Dynamics of Papal Trip Reinforce Catholic/Jewish Tensions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.