Papal Speech

Sep 17th, 2006, in Society, by

Pope Benedict’s speech and the muted reaction of Indonesian Muslim leaders.


Pope Benedict XVI addressed students at Regensburg University, Germany, and delivered a highly scholarly speech, called “Faith, Reason and the University – Memories and Reflections”, in which he devoted a very brief time to the discussion of Islam and violence.

The point of the speech was to show how the abandonment of reason, or logos, had led to the secularisation of western society. According to the Pope reason is not opposed to faith but instead thrives on it, even needs it.

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI & Some Robed Men.

During the speech he quoted from a recent book by Professor Theodore Khoury, an expert on the Byzantine civilization, who has reprinted the text of a late Middle Ages dialogue between a Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian Muslim. In the quote Emperor Manuel II Paleologus criticises his Muslim interlocutor for Islam’s violence as exemplified by the command from Muhammad to spread the religion by war. The emperor is quoted by the Pope as saying:

violence is something unreasonable.. […it is] incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

The basic message is that anyone who commits violence ceases being a believer; anyone, Christian or Muslim, who goes along with violence goes against Reason and God, God being the source of reason. The Pope quoted only one verse from the Qur’an, the one that says that “There is no compulsion in religion”, and pointed out that it was written when Muhammad was in Madinah and powerless, by way of explanation. When Muhammad became powerful, later, the Pope suggests, greater emphasis was placed on war and violence as a way of cementing the new religion.

But most of the speech was devoted to an attack on secularism in the west, most Muslims would likely agree with the Pope in that area.


No Indonesian has read the speech as yet but have simply relied on media reports of it. First off the blocks was Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin who said the Pope was misunderstood about Islam. Leaders of a religion should keep silent about the failings of other religions, he said, because failing to do so would create disharmony. Islam was not spread by the sword, he said, and jihad was only for defensive purposes. He asked that Muslims forgive the Pope and not react violently.

I hope that this case will not disturb relations between Muslims and Catholics in Indonesia because the nation already has enough problems.
(Saya berharap kasus ini tidak mengganggu hubungan antara umat Islam dan umat Katholik di Indonesia, karena hanya akan menambah masalah bangsa yang sudah menumpuk sekarang ini.)

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also complained about the speech, saying it not wise or appropriate. He hoped the Pope would correct himself.

Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) head, Ma’ruf Amin, said it would be better if Benedict were more like his predecessor, John Paul II, in that the latter was good at building bridges between religions.

Ahmad Syafii Maarif, a former chairman of Indonesia’s second largest islamic movement, the Muhammadiyah, said:

Whatever the circumstances, he as a pope should not have said things like that.


Let us be cool headed and first have a real look at what he said and the entire context of what he said, and only then can we make a comment. We have also to see what is his own opinion on the statement he quoted

Al Maschan Musa, who heads the main chapter of Indonesia’s largest Muslim
organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama, called the Pope’s statement “regrettable”.

The Prophet’s use of the sword is for defensive purposes, when he or the religion is attacked.

Fauzan Al Anshori, spokesman for the hardline Indonesian Mujahedin Council chaired by firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, said the Pope’s comments “show a misunderstanding of Islam”. But both Musa and Anshori said they wanted to read the speech properly before saying more.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said the authorities were still carefully studying the Pope’s statement before making any comment.

Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said:

Next time the pope should be more thoughtful when making statements.

Catholic priest Benny Susetyo believes that many Muslims have misunderstood the pope’s remarks. He doubted that those making angry comments had read the speech.

The situation in Indonesia is very sensitive because there are so many Catholics and they are generally well-regarded by Muslim leaders, seen as non-threatening because they don’t evangelise, unlike some pseudo-Protestant groups, and naturally it is likely that Muslim leaders are being deliberately cautious in order to avoid any serious unpleasantness.

33 Comments on “Papal Speech”

  1. Rockstar says:

    What’s the big deal anyway.
    You see how the name of Jesus has been insulted in everyday live 24/7 around the globe even by the so-called Christian.

    But seriously.. I do feel hurt honestly, but that’s not gonna effect my life as a Christian.. it’s their rights to say whatever they want to say, including every single person in this blog. You may mock my religion, you may mock my saviour. It will hurt me but it won’t budge me even a bit from the ground that I’m standing on right now. Let Him be the judge. That’s my principle.

    I’m not gonna waste even a bit of my life in a stupid things like that. Life is just too precious for that. I prefer going out to the bookstore and find some ideas and inspiration.

    And I don’t expect any appology from em.. cuz they don’t owe me one.. they owe Him one.

  2. Bradlymail says:

    Molisan Tono & Miss indo 07 – thanks ! god bless you…peace

  3. Molisan Tono says:

    Peace too brad

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