There's much excitement Stateside in advance of Ratzinger's visit next week. Much of the speculation has centred on what the fashion-conscious pope might wear (liturgically, of course), while Time magazine carried a profile of Ratzo's right-hand man, Mgr Georg Gänswein, the precise nature of whose relationship with the pope has been the source of so much innocent merriment in certain circles. By contrast, the Daily Telegraph had a rather strange article this morning pointing to a more sensitive subject.
"The pontiff will call for terrorists to convert to Christianity," it claims, quoting from a prayer Ratzinger intends to read at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York. The "offensive" words are as follows:
Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.
According to the Telegraph,
The prayer is likely to further incense the Muslim world, which has already attacked the Pope for publicly converting Magdi Allam, a journalist and one of Italy's most high-profile Muslims, at Easter.
How so? It hardly bears comparison with Ratzinger's rightly-criticised decision to restore a prayer for the conversion of the Jews to his reinstated Tridentine mass. It doesn't mention conversion at all, or a particular religion. Merely the "way of love". Presumably Muslims believe that their religion constitutes a "way of love". Or perhaps they don't.
The Telegraph then goes on to mention such high-profile insults to the Religion of Peace as Ratzinger's Regensberg speech of 2006 and the more recent public baptism of the Egyptian-born journalist Magdi Allam. They quote Aref Ali Nayed, a "leading scholar and proponent of peaceful relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam" as saying that there were "genuine questions about the motives, intentions and plans of some of the Pope's advisers on Islam". They don't, however, make clear whether he was speaking in response to this new development or in more general terms.
A cynic would think that the paper was engaged in mischief-making.
Interestingly, they didn't contact Ken Livingstone's friend Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, who has his own perspective on the Pope. According to the Gulf Times, he has called the high-profile conversion of Magdi Allam "a provocative and hostile act against Islam". "We try to seek peace with the Vatican and the World Council of Churches but in vain," he lamented, "They keep provoking us by their hostility."
He doesn't regret the loss of Allam, however, accusing the journalist of being "an agent of Israel". " He was always attacking Islam, the Qur’an and me," said Qaradawi, whose views on suicide bombing and the right of husbands to beat their wives led Livingstone to describe him as "one of the Muslim scholars who have done most to combat socially regressive interpretations of Islam."
Maybe that's why these self-declared progressives are backing Boris.