Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey was characterized by the Associated Press thusly (in one of their increasingly rare exercises in objective journalism): "Benedict's journey is extraordinarily sensitive, a closely watched pilgrimage full of symbolisms that could offer hope of religious reconciliation or deepen what many say is a growing divide between the Christian and Islamic worlds." While we must hope for the former, it is hard not to expect the latter.
Lamentably, the time is past (if it ever existed) when mere benign expressions of convivial tolerance could have any lasting, positive effect on inter-religious and inter-cultural relations. Pope Benedict well understands the current inefficacy of mere expressions of tolerance unconnected to specific, current Muslim nation practices, whatever he may or may not say on the remainder of this dangerous trip (originally intended as an outreach from the Catholic pope to the Eastern Orthodox Christian patriarch of Constantinople, before it was transformed by events into a Muslim-Christian-dominated event).
The pope believes in the need for deep, honest dialogue, premised on the need for reciprocity between Christians and Muslims. But as a man of honest faith and scholarship he refuses to go beyond where the teachings of his faith can take him.
As former foreign policy advisor to the U.S. Catholic Bishops, John F. Cullinan pointed out in National Review a few months ago, Pope Benedict recognizes "Lacking a common spiritual heritage, such as shared between Christians and Jews, purely theological dialogue [with Muslims] is counter productive and should be subordinated to an examination of how to exist peacefully in a pluralistic world." Thus Benedict sees reciprocity as applicable to attempting to reduce religious-motivated violence and to gaining religious freedom for religious minorities -- Christians, Muslims, Jews and all others.
We should not expect such reciprocity soon. Just this Monday two Turkish Christians (Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal) were defendants in a Turkish court accused of violating penal code Article 301, "insulting Turkishness" and Article 216, "inciting hatred against Islam." Their crime was peacefully missionizing on behalf of Christianity.
Similarly, the pope seeks to correct the imbalance between mosques being built throughout the cities of the West, while any non-Islamic religious expression (let alone church building) is strictly proscribed from Turkey to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to most other Muslim countries.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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