Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pope Benedict Becomes Second Catholic Leader to Visit Mosque
By Sabina Castelfranco
Istanbul - 30 November 2006
Voice of America

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul Thursday, becoming the second pope to enter a Muslim place of worship. He also visited Aya Sophia, which used to be Christianity's largest church. Earlier the pope held a solemn prayer service with the leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Istanbul.

Pope Benedict removed his shoes before entering the 17th century Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It was the second time a pope has entered a Muslim place of worship. Pope John Paul II visited a mosque in Syria in 2001.

Istanbul's Grand Mufti Mustafa Cagrici accompanied the pope and described different details of the mosque. The pope stood silently in meditation. His visit to the mosque was seen as another gesture of reconciliation by the pope toward Muslims.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the visit to the mosque in Istanbul was added to the pope's schedule as a sign of respect to Muslims. The pope and the grand mufti exchanged gifts inside the mosque.

Earlier the pope visited the domed Aya Sofia, or Church of Holy Wisdom. During the Byzantine period, it used to be Christianity's largest church. In 1453 it was turned into a mosque and now it is a museum.

Extra tight security was in place for the pope's evening visits in Istanbul.

In the morning Thursday, Pope Benedict and the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, held a solemn prayer service together in the Church of Saint George in Istanbul.

During the ceremony the leaders of the world's Catholics and Orthodox pledged to continue all efforts toward full Christian unity between their churches.

"'The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel," said Pope Benedict XVI.

In a joint statement after the ceremony, the pope and the patriarch also stressed the need to "preserve Christian roots" in European culture while remaining "open to other religions and their cultural contributions."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This is one of the best articles I've read regarding Pope Benedict's position on the growing secularism in Europe and society at large.

Benedict's post-secular vision

Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst
International Herald TribunePublished: November 29, 2006

LONDON: The pope in Turkey
Two months ago, Pope Benedict XVI sparked a furor in the Islamic world when, during a lecture at Regensburg, he quoted a Byzantine emperor who described some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman." After worldwide condemnation and violent protests, he expressed regret for the pain his comments had caused, but stopped short of a full apology.

During his visit to Turkey this week, Benedict is expected to avoid controversy and seek a diplomatic rapprochement with Islam. Indeed, his talk of "dialogue, brotherhood and understanding between religions," as well as the reversal of his objections to Turkey's EU membership has been widely interpreted as a gesture of goodwill toward the Muslim faithful. As such, his declarations appear to be a concession to his liberal and religious critics alike.

But the papal visit is not primarily an attempt to pacify relations between Christianity and Islam. Instead, Benedict is there to engage with Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy in the hope of persuading both to join his project of overcoming secularism.

The Pope, far from being sectarian, wants to inaugurate a new religious renaissance in Europe that opposes both secular and religious fundamentalism. This apostolic journey is of a piece with the logic of the Regensburg address, rather than a belated act of repentance for it.

Benedict opposes secularism because it is both absolute and arbitrary. In the name of being neutral with regard to values, secular ideology eliminates all rival world views from the public sphere. By denying the existence of objective moral truths, it elevates self- assertion as the measure of all things. Social life is reduced to the arbitration of conflicting self-interest — a process in which the most powerful always win.

Ultimately, this arbitrary absolutism produces a society ruled by an unholy alliance of utilitarian ethics and the proxy politics of the managerial class. This collusion destroys the very idea of common action and a binding collective discernment. Thus does the pope attribute the failure of Europe's common political project to the growing secularization of European culture.

Benedict's religious alternative is not some form of theocratic absolutism. On the contrary, the Pope is a staunch defender of secularity — the separation of church and state. Benedict wants to disentangle the church from the state, but without divorcing religion from politics, because only a religion freed from subservience to the state can save modern culture from itself.

Thus Benedict's true purpose in Turkey is that of uniting all the monotheistic faiths against a militant and self-consciously destructive secular culture. To that end he will seek a new political communion with Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople — the symbolic leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians. Even the Russian Orthodox patriarch, Alexei II, who rejected overtures by the late Pope John Paul II, has indicated that he would now welcome talks with Rome.

Nor are the pope's attempts to produce a concerted monotheistic alliance restricted to Christians. On the first day of his visit, Benedict quoted an 11th century pope, Gregory VII, who talked about the duties that Christians and Muslims owe each other "because we believe in one God."

Far from being anti-Muslim, the pope views Islam as a key cultural ally against the enlightenment liberalism that for him corrodes the moral core of Western society.
It is important to realize, however, that Benedict recognizes a mutual problem in this explicit project of religious realignment around shared critiques and common discernment. Secular conceptions of race, state and nation have corrupted all the faiths, too often turning them into a vehicle for nationalism or racism.

Accordingly, the denunciation at Regensburg of scripturally authorized violence by Islam is wholly in line with Benedict's call to the faiths to abandon their respective perversions. Hence the papal demand Tuesday that all religions "utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of faith."

It is a genuine cause for celebration that Benedict seeks to make common cause with other universal faiths to confront an aggressively supremacist Western culture of forced unbelief and relentless consumerism.

Phillip Blond is a senior lecturer in religion and philosophy at St. Martin's College, Lancaster. Adrian Pabst is a research fellow at the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies. had this interesting article this evening.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Pope to visit "Mary's House" in Turkey
By Philip Pullella on Yahoo.

Pope Benedict, pursuing a journey of fence-mending with Islam and Turkey, on Wednesday pays tribute to one of Christianity's most revered sites before heading to Istanbul, city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

During the first day of his delicate trip to the predominantly Muslim country on Tuesday, Benedict quickly set to work trying to soothe still simmering rows over his positions on Islam and Turkey's future role in Europe.

His comments so far appeared to go a long way toward making up for a speech in Germany in September when he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Islam was violent and irrational. The speech infuriated Muslims worldwide.

Fears of large protests by Islamists and nationalists were unfounded, with only two small and peaceful demonstrations reported in Ankara. About 3,000 police were out on patrol to keep order, with snipers on buildings near papal events.

Turkey's top Muslim leader, Ali Bardakoglu, spoke out against growing "Islamophobia, which expresses the mentality that the religion of Islam is containing and encouraging violence."
In his speech at the same event, Benedict said Christians and Muslims must continue an open dialogue because they believe in the same God and agree on the meaning and purpose of life.
Benedict also appeared to do an about-face from his previous opposition to Ankara's bid to join the European Union.

On Wednesday the Pope is due to fly west to the Aegean town of Ephesus, where legend says the mother of Jesus Christ lived out the last years of her life.

The stone "Mary's House" was found in the late 19th century by archaeologists who based their searches on writings of German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich. Her visions were the basis of some scenes in the 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ."

The Pope will say mass at the small sanctuary, visited every year by tens of thousands of both Christians and Muslims.

The Pope then goes to Istanbul, the modern name of the city once known as Constantinople, which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire for more than a 1,000 years until it was conquered by Muslim forces in 1453 and became the Ottoman seat.

There, he will spend the last two days of the trip as the guest of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday that in a private meeting at the airport, Benedict had told him he backed Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

"He said 'we are not political but we wish for Turkey to join the EU'," Erdogan told journalists.
Asked to explain the Vatican's precise position, spokesman Father Lombardi said it could not take any political stand but "encourages and views positively Turkey's path of dialogue, rapprochement and participation in Europe based on common values and principles."

Erdogan appeared to have no doubts that Benedict had changed his stand from 2004, when he told a French newspaper before he was elected Pope that Turkey would be "in permanent contrast to Europe" if it joined.

Erdogan, who began his career in Islamic politics, added: "The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, he reiterated his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

And So It Begins.

25,000 protest pope's visit to Turkey
From Yahoo News Service

More than 25,000 people joined demonstrations Sunday against Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit, police said.

The demonstration was the largest anti-pope protest so far ahead of Benedict's arrival Tuesday for a four-day visit, his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim country. Some 4,000 police backed by riot trucks, armored vehicles and helicopters monitored the protest as the crowds grew.

The protest was organized by a pro-Islamic political party called Felicity whose leaders have said they were offended by Benedict's comments in September linking violence and Islam.
Benedict has expressed regret for offending Muslims by his remarks and said they did not reflect his personal views.

The protesters shouted "God is great" in Arabic and carried posters asking the pope not to come to Turkey. They also draped signs on the way from the Istanbul airport.

Benedict has few fans in Turkey, which is hoping to become the first predominantly Muslim member of the European Union. The pope has previously spoken out against Turkey's EU bid, and has called for a return to fundamental Christian values in Europe.

His trip to Turkey will be his first official visit to a Muslim country.

Benedict is scheduled to stay for four days. He will meet the Istanbul-based leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew I.

On Sunday, Benedict expressed his "feelings of esteem and of sincere friendship" for Turks and their leaders.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Holy Father leaves for Turkey tomorrow. Let us remember him in prayer and hope that many blessings will come from this visit.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

When the archbishop meets the pope
Keith F. Pecklers
Opinion piece - Published: International Herald Tribune - November 22, 2006

Observation from me - Though Fr. Pecklers has excellent credentials, I would be interested in knowing the gathering methodology of some of his statistics. There is a strong and conservative rise among Catholics in our country. Are we really such a small part of the greater Catholic community nationwide?

BOSTON: Forty years ago, in an extraordinary moment during the visit of the archbishop of Canterbury to Rome, the Catholic pope removed his ring, symbol of his office as bishop of Rome, and placed it on the finger of the Anglican prelate.

Archbishop Michael Ramsey began to cry and embraced Pope Paul VI. That gift inaugurated a new day for Anglican and Roman Catholic relations and set our churches on a path from which we cannot and will not turn back. Every one of Ramsey's successors has worn that ring when he meets the pope as a reminder of the call to Christian unity.

Today the world is a radically different place than it was back in 1966. All eyes will be on Pope Benedict XVI next week as he embarks on his visit to Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, in the wake of the pontiff's remarks on Islam several months ago.

Indeed, with Islam on the rise and Christianity in decline, Anglicans and Catholics have no choice but to devote their energies to greater ecumenical collaboration. Clearly, the exploration of paths toward reconciliation with Muslims is of utmost importance.

Anglicans and Catholics in the 21st century also face the same host of social problems and concerns, such as globalization, immigration, HIV/AIDS, world hunger and the genocide in Darfur.

But if we are to successfully negotiate these troubled waters, Anglicans and Catholics need first to find their common voice as Christians.

This Thursday, the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is wearing Paul VI's ring once again as he dines in the papal apartments with Pope Benedict XVI.

The bearded Welshman and the elderly Bavarian hold more in common than meets the eye. Both are highly respected theologians in their respective churches. Both are gifted linguists: The archbishop is fluent in German and the pope speaks excellent English. Both are accomplished musicians.

As the two church leaders meet, they do so very much aware of the roadblocks to full unity between the Catholic and Anglican churches. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise.
Yet they also need to admit that both churches are facing internal problems.

Across the board, mainline Christian churches in the West are registering a significant decline in membership and church attendance.

Among Catholics, the gap continues to widen between church teaching on human sexuality and the lived reality: for example, only 4 precent of married Catholics in the United States observe church teaching on birth control. (Italics mine) The number of divorced and remarried Catholics is on the rise even in Catholic Italy. And the clerical sexual scandals that deeply damaged the American church have hurt the Catholic Church's credibility far beyond U.S. borders.

Anglicans have had to confront their own crises. The Episcopal Church in the United States has been sharply divided over the election and consecration of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire - a move that now threatens to impede or even sever its ties between the American church and the wider Anglican communion. The choice of a woman as the newly-elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, along with the Church of England's decision to move forward with the ordination of women bishops, presents additional challenges.

Yet even in this winter of our discontent there is an underreported practical ecumenism that needs to be recognized. In 2003, with the onset of the war in Iraq, the archbishop of Canterbury and the Catholic archbishop of Westminster issued a joint statement opposing the war.

In Sudan, the Anglican archbishop and his Catholic counterpart share responsibility for the other's clergy when one of them is away. The Anglican and Catholic bishops of Cork, Ireland, only issue pastoral letters that they are able to affirm and co-sign.

Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams have their work cut out for them as they face a common enemy - secularism and the disappearance of the Christian faith in the West. By the year 2020, we're told that 80 percent of all Christians will be people of color who live in the southern hempisphere. (Italic mine) The average Christian in the world today is poor, often living as a minority in a non-Christian country.

Yes, our theological differences remain, but what we can do together we must do together. It is time to reawaken that ecumenical spring of 40 years ago.

Keith F. Pecklers, a Jesuit priest and professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, currently holds the Gasson Chair in Theology at Boston College.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

An article worth reading from the National Catholic Report
Vatican announces Pope Benedict XVI has written book on Jesus Christ
Tuesday November 21, 2006

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI has completed his first book as pontiff, a work about Jesus Christ that he says is purely personal and not at all infallible, an Italian publishing house said Tuesday.

Announcements by the Vatican and the Rizzoli publishing house said the book "Jesus of Nazareth'' will be released in the spring and that Rizzoli will negotiate worldwide sales.
Benedict, a theologian by training, has been a prolific author since his years as a professor in his native Germany.

The book, meant for general Catholic readers, will be the first of two volumes on Christ.
In a preface released by the Italian publisher, Benedict writes that the book is "absolutely not an act'' of church authority and teaching but "an expression of my personal research into the `face of the Lord.'''

"Therefore, everyone is free to contradict me,'' Benedict said.

Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul II also was a prolific writer, whose works included the international best-seller "Crossing the Threshold of Hope.''-AP

Monday, November 20, 2006

Holy Father is on the threshold of entering into two worlds contained in one small country, Turkey. Here Islam and Orthodoxy intersect and overlap. I pray that the things that divide us from Orthodoxy can be healed. I pray for his safety.

Pope to make 1st visit to Muslim nation
By BRIAN MURPHY, AP Religion WriterMon Nov 20, 3:38 AM ET

When Pope Benedict XVI goes to Turkey this month for his first papal visit to a Muslim nation, he will in effect be making two distinct journeys.

The global spotlight will be on what efforts he makes to win back the respect of Muslims angered by his remarks on religious violence and the Prophet Muhammad. The other will be a pilgrimage to one of Christianity's last toeholds in Turkey.

Together they represent a test of Benedict's diplomatic finesse as he tries to calm Muslim ire while being pressed to make a forceful statement in defense of the rights of Christian minorities in Muslim lands.

The scheduled Nov. 29 meeting in Istanbul between the pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, will be the latest display of fellowship between the two ancient branches of Christianity and reinforce the dream of ending their nearly 1,000-year estrangement.

No breakthrough is expected at Bartholomew's walled compound in Istanbul, formerly the Christian Byzantine capital Constantinople before falling to Muslim armies in 1453.
Instead, the visit may highlight the weak links in efforts to heal the East-West divide in Christianity, which was sealed in 1054 after centuries of feuds over papal authority and differences in the liturgy.

Bartholomew is called the "first among equals" among the Orthodox leaders, but he wields little real power over the world's more than 250 million Orthodox. That power rests with the patriarchs of the various self-governing churches, the largest of which is the Russian Orthodox Church of Patriarch Alexy II, who rebuffed overtures by the late Pope John Paul II for a groundbreaking trip to Moscow.

Alexy is at the center of one of the main Orthodox complaints: the growth of Eastern Rite churches, which follow many Orthodox rites but are under the Vatican's jurisdiction. Orthodox fear the churches are expanding Vatican influence and luring away followers in Ukraine and other traditional Orthodox regions. The Vatican denies it is trying to poach Orthodox believers.
Benedict has had a better reception than John Paul among Orthodox leaders because of his affinity for the traditions of early Christianity and his respected theological scholarship. Alexy has suggested he might consider meeting Benedict, perhaps in a neutral third country, if there is progress on the Eastern Rite quarrels and other issues.

On Friday at the Vatican, Benedict said the four-day Turkey trip beginning Nov. 28 "will be a further sign of consideration for the Orthodox churches and will act as a stimulus to quicken the steps toward re-establishing full communion."

His remarks did not address the furor stoked by his Sept. 12 speech, in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor's description of Islam as a religion spread by the sword. But the Turkish officials he will meet include the head of religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, a top Islamic cleric who has said the pope's words threatened world peace.

On the Orthodox front, Benedict acknowledged, much still needs to be done.
The Orthodox leadership, too, is facing internal struggles over how to deal with a lopsided equation: Their fragmented structure versus the central authority that holds spiritual sway over 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

"The issue of papal primacy remains a very difficult one for the Orthodox," said the Rev. Igor Yevgeniyevich Vyzhanov, a Russian church spokesman. "This meeting with the pope should be just seen in terms of bilateral relationship between the Vatican and the ecumenical patriarchate. It cannot be seen as talks between the pope and the entire Orthodox world."

But Bartholomew's struggles still resonate far beyond his tiny enclave in Istanbul.
His pleas for minority rights carry particular sensitivity in Turkey, whose bid for European Union membership hinges on expanding religious and cultural freedoms.

In early November, Turkey's parliament passed a law allowing properties confiscated in the 1970s by the state to be returned to Christian and Jewish minority foundations. The decision, however, did not specifically address Orthodox demands to reopen a theological school shuttered 21 years ago.

"This trip could reinforce what many Orthodox already feel — that Pope Benedict is interested in making a real effort at healing the differences," said Thomas FitzGerald, dean at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass.

There have been some small but notable steps since May 2005, when Benedict declared a "fundamental commitment" to promote dialogue with the Orthodox.

In September, 60 top-level envoys gathered in Belgrade, Serbia, to restart Vatican-Orthodox talks that broke off six years ago over issues including papal authority and Eastern Rite churches. Separate meetings have continued between American Catholic and Orthodox representatives.

The influential head of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Christodoulos, is scheduled to visit the Vatican on Dec. 14.

Even the timing of Benedict's trip is built around Orthodox sensibilities. His time with Bartholomew coincides with the feast day of the apostle-martyr St. Andrew, who traveled through Asia Minor and the Balkans and who, tradition says, ordained the first bishop of what would become Constantinople.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pope `Re-Affirms' Celibacy, Ends Married Priests Bid (Update1)
By Flavia Krause-Jackson
Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Pope Benedict XVI today ``re- affirmed'' the celibacy requirement for priests, putting an end to the possibility his papacy would open up to married clergymen in a bid to offset a shortage of recruits.

The pontiff and the heads of the nine congregations and 11 pontifical councils that make up the administration of the Holy See met today in response to mounting calls for the Catholic Church to drop the celibacy obligation and examine the cases of priests who have married and sought readmission.

The participants of the meeting ``re-affirmed the value of a priest choosing to be celibate in accordance to the Catholic tradition,'' the Holy See said in a statement sent by e-mail.
Pope Benedict is facing a shortage of priests as the Catholic faith wanes in popularity in Europe and the U.S. amid debate about the Vatican's stance on issues such as contraception, abortion, celibacy and the role of women in the church. The number of Catholic priests in Europe and North America dropped 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, between 1999 and 2004, the church's statistical yearbook showed.

There are about 140,000 Catholic priests in Europe, and 46,000 in the U.S. Asia's priesthood grew by 13 percent and Africa's by 18 percent.

The world's Catholic population is 1.1 billion, according to the 2006 edition of ``Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae,'' the Vatican's official statistics book. Islam is the fastest-growing religion, with Muslims expected to number 2 billion by 2025, according to the United Nations Department of Statistics.

The celibacy debate was triggered by Emmanuel Milingo, a former archbishop of the Zambian capital, Lusaka, who was excommunicated by Pope Benedict two months ago for ordaining four married men as bishops.

`Married Priests Now'
Milingo provoked controversy in 2001 by marrying a South Korean woman in a mass wedding conducted by Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Milingo later renounced his marriage and in July formed a lobby group called ``Married Priests Now'' to try and convince the Catholic Church to drop the celibacy obligation.

``It is very clear that the Roman Catholic Church has a great need of priests,'' said Milingo on his Web site. ``Currently on the sidelines, there are approximately 150,000 validly ordained priests. But these priests are married. The majority of these priests are ready and willing to return to the sacred ministry of the altar.''

Milingo, 76, says he continues to celebrate Mass each day. Born in Zambia into a poor family of farmers, he was ordained in 1958 and became one of Africa's youngest bishops before his activities as an exorcist convinced the Vatican to recall him to Rome in 1983, according to the biography on his Web Site.

There were married priests in early church, though they were supposed to refrain from sex with their wives, following the example of the twelve apostles who renounced their families to follow Jesus, according to Father Anthony Zimmerman, in a 2001 paper entitled ``The Logic of Priestly Celibacy.''

Converting Clergy
The practice wasn't outlawed until the fourth century. The council of Elvira, held between 295 and 302, imposed celibacy on the clergy, according to the New Advent, an online Catholic encyclopedia approved by the church. Still, apart from bishops, priests that were married at that time were allowed to keep their wives and moreover the practice of marriage remained widespread in the converted Byzantine Empire.

Some married priests do work inside the Catholic Church, primarily clergymen from other Christian faiths such as Anglicanism, who already had wives when they converted to Catholicism and were ordained by special dispensation, according to Father William P. Saunders, a former dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School at Christendom College, in Alexandria, Virginia, and author of the 1998 work ``Straight Answers, Answers to 100 Questions about the Catholic Faith.''

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

They can spin this anyway they want but many will regard this as opening the door to dialogue on the long and contentiously debated issue.

Pope, aides to discuss celibacy issues: Vatican
By Phil StewartMon Nov 13, 4:38 PM ET

Pope Benedict has called a meeting of Vatican advisers for a "reflection" on issues related to celibacy in the Church following a schism led by a renegade African archbishop who wants priests to be able to marry.

The meeting, to be held on Thursday, was announced by the Vatican's press office on Monday in a short statement that a spokesman said did not imply a review of current rules that priests remain celibate.

The statement said the Pope and leaders of Vatican departments would hold a "reflection on requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and on requests for readmission to the priestly ministry by priests who had married."

Asked for clarification, chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the meeting was not being called to consider major changes in the celibacy rule but to discuss the issue generally and certain individual cases.

The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss the ramifications of the crisis sparked when Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo ordained four married men as priests at a ceremony in Washington D.C. in September.

That prompted his automatic excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.
Milingo rejects his excommunication, which forbids him to receive the sacraments or share in public acts of worship.

He is planning a convention for more than 1,000 married priests -- and their wives -- in New York for December 8-10.

"The Holy Father has called on Thursday, November 16 a meeting ... to examine the situation created following (Milingo's) disobedience," the statement said.

The Roman Catholic Church insists that its priests remain celibate and has ruled out letting them marry, which advocates say would make some men more willing to join the priesthood and ease the shortage of priests in many parts of the world.

Priests were permitted to wed during the first millennium, but marriage was condemned by the Church at the Second Lateran Council in 1139.

Milingo is not just a keen proponent of marriage, but tried it himself in 2001 at a mass ceremony held by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The union was never recognized by the Vatican and Milingo later rejoined the Catholic Church.

A proposal discussed, and rejected at a synod of Catholic bishops last year, suggested that the Church ordain some "viri probati" -- a Latin term referring to older, married men with families who are known to lead exemplary personal lives. "Viri probati" also has a solid background in Catholic doctrine.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pope has unannounced talk with Muslim tolerance campaigner
Sat Nov 11, 6:28 PM ET

A leading Muslim academic and campaigner against religious hatred revealed that he had held a half-hour private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

The encounter, which had not been announced in advance by the Vatican, took place in the pope's private study at the request of Algerian scholar Mustapha Cherif.

"The pope listened to me with great attention, great goodness, and there was a proper exchange," said Cherif, who teaches at Algiers University and helped to found a French-based group for dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

He had asked the head of the Roman Catholic Church for a meeting several months ago, before remarks made by Benedict in Regensburg in Germany in September seen as linking Islam and violence, which provoked uproar among many in the Muslim world.

Since then the pope has made several calls for dialogue between the faiths ahead of a four-day visit to Turkey, his first official trip to a Muslim country, starting on November 28.

The 50-year-old Muslim scholar said the two men had discussed the controversial speech, adding that he himself had raised the issue "to respond to questions posed by his speech," mainly about how freedom, reason and violence is viewed by the Koran.

"Dialogue between religions is the decisive factor" making it possible to "drive back misunderstanding, fanaticism, to recall our common base, to relaunch consideration of our differences and common challenges," he said. The Algerian academic told AFP he had proposed the holding of an international Islamo-Christian conference to boost the campaign against racial and religious hatred.

Other themes would be "making the international community aware of the reprehensible nature of offending ... sacred symbols of religions .. in the respect of the right to freedom of expression" and "increasing Islamo-Christian dialogue and friendship groups."

Benedict "told me that he fully shares our worries and backs these noble aims," Cherif said.
My approach is that of a theologian in a quest for dialogue, who refuses polemics," said the academic, author of several books including "Islam and Tolerance."

Benedict "told me that he considers Islam as a great religion, and that we must witness together the religious dimension of existence."

The pope rejected "the logic of a clash of civilisations," he said.

At this unprecedented meeting, two weeks before Benedict's journey to Turkey, Cherif raised his remarks in Regensburg, which have cast a shadow over the visit.

"I told him that just like the Gospel, the Koran asks believers to forgive, to have patience and to be merciful, and resorting to collective violence is only authorised in cases of aggression, in strict conditions, as Saint Agustine used to say," he said.

"He approved in his wisdom the fact that Christians and Muslims should not be competitors but friends and allies."

There was no statement from the Vatican either before or after the meeting, during which Cherif gave the pope the original of a letter sent in 1863 by the Algerian Emir Abdeldkader to archbishop Pavie of Algiers.

In it the emir explained to Pavie, who had thanked him in an earlier letter for saving the lives of Catholic priests, that such an act was part of the practice of Islam.