Pope Benedict makes himself even more popular abroad

Pope Benedict addressed a gathering of diplomats to the Holy See yesterday, urging them to encourage religious freedom in their home countries:

The Pope asked the representatives of 178 countries, as well as of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the European Community and the Knights of Malta, to examine how well their own countries respected the right of individuals to believe, to act in accordance with their conscience, to gather with other believers for worship and to carry out the educational and social projects their faith inspires.

Pope Benedict met diplomats accredited to the Holy See and continued his Christmas-season focus on the connection between religious liberty and peace, and on threats to full religious freedom in western democracies as well as in countries notorious for violating human rights.

Once again he denounced attacks on Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria and expressed concern about the renewal of Chinese government restrictions on Catholics.

Condemning the murder last week of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab in Pakistan, the Pope said the country must overturn its blasphemy law, which makes insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Koran punishable by death.

Taseer supported the move to abrogate the law, which the Pope said often “serves as a pretext of acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities”.

The reaction to his speech? Egypt recalled their Vatican envoy, calling the pope’s remarks “an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs,” while Islamic demonstrators in Pakistan protested even the suggestion that their blasphemy laws should be  thrown out, calling it “insane.”

Something tells me Benedict picked exactly the right subject for his Christmas/New Year’s messages.

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

  • bill bannon

    unfortunate because thousands of Egyptian Muslims just protected Copt services as human shields last week and I hope they get the Noble Peace prize for it. So it is sad that this happened so quickly after a wonderful moment.
    Pakistan has perhaps a majority of its people supporting the blasphemy law so that is not just the government.
    China…Benedict needs to read an old copy of Harvard Business Review on negotiating with Chinese that I have kept (because my wife is Chinese and inscrutable)…if you challenge some of them directly without giving them a face saver trade, you will lose. I lost last week that way….and I read the article long ago.
    China was bullied by Europe, Japan and Russia during the 19th century and into the boxer rebellion. For them Benedict is European power…not a European poor with the poor missionary type. They know where he lives and that he has recently refinished marble floors and ten rooms….ie…he is power not lowly.
    China has always had to worry about rebellion and the largest internal rebellion during the 19th century which almost overthrew the Qing Dynasty was led by a Chinese Christian, Hong Xiuquan. This Taiping Rebellion lasted from 1850 to 1864 and during it, China was also being attacked by the Europeans including France which was the representative of the Vatican there on all things Catholic….it does not help that they were helping England force opium on China through war. So while we see ourselves as having a pure image there, the Chinese do not have the same image. There was no letter from Pius IX demanding that France stop imperialism in China…because Pius IX needed France simultaneously in Europe to protect the papal lands from Italy of the same time period as the Opium war.
    So a Pope might get more with honey than with declarations of what China must do. In the 19th century they lost face because the whole world was telling them what to do…including the Church which let France forcibly open all China to missionaries during the Second Opium War which simultaneously forced opium on the Chinese. We remember in our essays the Ricci period since that period was in fact innocent…but long before the bad period.

  • J

    The Church has tried every approach with China to stop their nationalization of the Catholic Church. Nothing has worked.

    If China wants to save face, they can start with anytime.

  • bill bannon

    by not cooperating and while the Pope had coercive strong secular allies in the 19th century who bullied China, those days are over.
    The Pope’s letter to China two years ago stated that the Church does not seek to overturn governments. Meanwhile our writer, George Weigel, whom Chinese intelligence probably reads….stated in “Witness to Hope” that John Paul II played a part in the overthrow of Marcos in the Phillipines just off their coast…..and that John Paul.II helped bring down Russian communism. Does that sound like we don’t overturn governments.
    Benedict writes them that the Church does not seek to overthrow governments while our writers are saying the opposite. Therefore…..China sees us as saying opposite things simultaneously to two different audiences….the West and them, China.

  • Brian English

    “by not cooperating and while the Pope had coercive strong secular allies in the 19th century who bullied China, those days are over.”

    You really believe the thugs running China are doing all of this to get some type of revenge for Chinese rulers in the 19th Century being bullied?

    And even if it was, what do you think the Pope should do?

  • bill bannon

    prudence based on our past behaviour in our allies and Catholic rep who twice looted their imperial palace of art treasures (1860’s1890’s) which is in fact real thuggery….and France our rep then forced China in a treaty to allow Catholic bishops to be carried in the Mandarin sedan chair which further humiliated Chinese culture….and then Euros in general forced extraterritoriailty on them. Euros could not be tried by Chinese courts but only by Euro courts within China. But its the Chinese who are thugs?….lol….you’ll have no social security if they read you Brian and decide to sell all their US Treasury bonds and I’ll go broke over night in closed end bond funds.
    They…the Chinese…. have never looted one European imperial palace at all….nor traveled to enslave any blacks…nor robbed all the silver of Peru. If they were true thugs, Christianity would not be permitted even in the Patriotic version. Their most successful rebel in history was a Christian so that it is a miracle that they permit it at all.

    A Pope would have to begin by confessing the 19th century silence of Popes about France’s behaviour and then proceed to explaining why he the Pope must appoint Bishops when under the padroado system in China’s past, the Pope allowed the Portuguese to appoint Bishops in China. Seems racial and Euro to the Chinese. Google wiki’s brief but good article on the Padroado.

  • Brian English

    “prudence based on our past behaviour in our allies and Catholic rep who twice looted their imperial palace of art treasures (1860’s1890’s) which is in fact real thuggery….”

    The Communist Chinese have been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of CHINESE. What do you call that if looting art treasures is “real thuggery?”

    “A Pope would have to begin by confessing the 19th century silence of Popes about France’s behaviour…”

    You want the Pope to to “confess” for “19th century silence” to the blood-stained Chinese Communists? How many millions of Chinese did the French kill in the 19th century? How many forced abortions did the French perform? You have got to be joking.

  • bill bannon

    guns and grenades and bombs really changed….
    but zoom up to the 20th century and it’s guns and the Russian civil war had 9 million dead in 5 years with modern guns….6 million in the Chinese civil war in 4 years between pre Mao communists and Kuomintang….each killing about an equal number.

    ergo…..comparing the 2 centuries as you have may not be a very good idea.

    The Mao Regime which was 26 years is the horrendous number of dead period and it’s performance has been disavowed by China’s leaders for awhile
    but the dead were mostly due to not war but a famine Mao himself caused by having farmers stop farming and make products in their barns instead….the result was that anywhere from 19 to 40 million died from famine. Figures for labor camps of internal revolutionaries have only 5 estimates and not from internal documents so the problem of copying each other may be present and is a guess.