I want to follow my brother’s post about Cardinal Dolan’s presence at the Republican and Democrat national conventions. His presence was important for proclaiming the timeless truths that the Church stands for: the existence of God, the value of human life, the vital importance of the family, and the need for building a just society. Yet, as Cardinal Dolan showed so well, the Church is passionate about not letting our passions divide us, or prompt us to insult or assault even our enemies, even those who attack us and attack what is most precious to us.
Pope Benedict gave exactly the same witness during his visit to Lebanon, and the darkness rising in the Middle East makes the tension in the United States look pale in comparison. I want to include a few quotes from John Allen, comparing this papal trip to Pope John Paul II’s trip to Kazakhstan:
…it’s hard not to be struck by parallels between Benedict’s Sept. 14-16 voyage to Lebanon and John Paul II’s September 2001 trip to Kazakhstan, principally because both came at the exact right moment to project a badly needed bit of symbolism.
…John Paul’s trip came just 11 days after the Twin Towers terrorist attacks of 9/11, and Kazakhstan is not far from the northern border of Afghanistan, where everyone knew the United States would shortly launch military operations.
…When John Paul II celebrated an open-air Mass in Astana, the Kazakh capital, on Sept. 23, 2001, a substantial portion of the crowed was made up of reverent and respectful young Muslims.
…Muslim clerics and ordinary believers alike turned out for almost every event on Benedict’s itinerary in Lebanon (even Hezbollah put up banners welcoming Benedict XVI), and he returned the favor. During a prayer service with Eastern Catholic patriarchs Saturday night, he urged the prelates to love their Muslim neighbors and to pray for them, because, he said, “we are all brothers.”
If you are interested, please read his column yourself, which spends the first half taking about the rising threats to Christians in particular and religious freedom in general throughout the world.
It is very, very important to realize that the Pope is not proclaiming tolerance, but he is proclaiming forgiveness. Both in the United States and in the larger world things we don’t have to be divided and hateful, but this demands more than tolerance; it demands courage in the face of evil: do not return evil for evil and insult for insult; if someone slaps you on the cheek do not slap them back, but turn the other cheek. This is the only path to peace: everything else leads to war. +