Sunday, September 17, 2006

Papa Ratzi 3

When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, few people expected that this elderly German scholar would be able to handle the complex political pressures of the modern world with the same compassion and charisma as his predecessor. In my post Papa Ratzi, I quoted Timothy Garton Ash, who predicted that "the new Pope will hasten the decline of the old continent's formative faith" (Guardian April 21st, 2005).

Last week, in the middle of an otherwise dry and intellectually demanding lecture about Faith and Reason at the University of Regensberg, the Pope threw in a quotation about the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) from a 14th century Byzantine emperor. [BBC News, Wikipedia]

Robin Wilton read the whole lecture closely, to find out what did the pope actually say. He concludes that the lecture as a whole represents a fairly reasonable and tolerant position about Islam, and implies that it is the outrage that is unreasonable.

But what I don't quite understand is why the Pope chose to include the offending quotation at all, since it doesn't seem to add any logical weight to his argument. Lecturers often include quotations in order to produce some effect - to amuse or stimulate or shock the audience. We don't know what effect the Pope intended on this occasion, but we know very well what effect this quotation has had.

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