Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Holy Father and the Media Redux

Immediately following the Holy Father's Apostolic journey to Turkey, prompted by an interview granted by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, to Gianni Cardinale of the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, L'Avvenire, in early December, I commented on how badly the secular media misinterprets and fails to understand the Church generally and Pope Benedict XVI in particular. The particular case-in-point from the Pope's trip was how the media treated Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's claim, after emerging from his brief meeting with the Pontiff at the airport in Ankara, that the Holy Father no longer opposed the admittance of Turkey into the European Union. True to form, Italian Vaticanisti, Sandro Magister has written and posted a detailed critique and commentary on exactly these issues, entitled Exercises in Disinformation: The Pope According to the Leading Newspapers.

Drawing from Magister, it is important to begin by noting why Ratzinger opposed Turkish inclusion in Europe. As a highly intelligent, well-versed, and nuanced thinker, Joseph Ratzinger is no xenophobic nativist, or German nationalist. So, to the quotes Magister uses to set the stage for the analysis by Anton Smitsendonk, written exclusively for Chiesa. Presently, Smitsendonk is commissioner for Thailand and Indonesia in the International Chamber of Commerce. He has served as Netherlands ambassador to China and, before that, he served as ambassador to Turkey (all emphasis mine):

"1. – Joseph Ratzinger in "Le Figaro Magazine," August 13, 2004, interviewed by Sophie de Ravinel:

"'Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one. It is its culture that gives it a common identity. The roots that have formed it, that have permitted the formation of this continent, are those of Christianity. [...] In this sense, throughout history Turkey has always represented another continent, in permanent contrast with Europe. There were the wars against the Byzantine empire, the fall of Constantinople, the Balkan wars, and the threat against Vienna and Austria. That is why I think it would be an error to equate the two continents. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of culture for the sake of economic benefits. Turkey, which is considered a secular country but is founded upon Islam, could instead attempt to bring to life a cultural continent together with some neighboring Arab countries, and thus become the protagonist of a culture that would possess its own identity but would also share the great humanistic values that we should all acknowledge. This idea is not incompatible with close and friendly forms of association and collaboration with Europe, and would permit the development of unified strength in opposition to any form of fundamentalism.'"

"2. – Joseph Ratzinger in a September 18, 2004 speech to pastoral workers in the diocese of Velletri, a speech printed by the Catholic newspaper in Lugano, Switzerland, 'Il Giornale del Popolo':

"'Historically and culturally, Turkey has little in common with Europe; for this reason, it would be a great error to incorporate it into the European Union. It would be better for Turkey to become a bridge between Europe and the Arab world, or to form together with that world its own cultural continent. Europe is not a geographical concept, but a cultural one, formed in a sometimes conflictual historical process centered upon the Christian faith, and it is a matter of fact that the Ottoman empire was always in opposition to Europe. Even though Kemal Atatürk constructed a secular Turkey during the 1920's, the country remains the nucleus of the old Ottoman empire; it has an Islamic foundation, and is thus very different from Europe, which is a collection of secular states with Christian foundations, although today these countries seem to deny this without justification. Thus the entry of Turkey into the EU would be anti-historical.'"

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