Whatever one might say about Pope Benedict'sunusual remarks about Islam, the truth is that he was only repeating what has been obvious down the centuries, except that for the Pope to associate Islam with violence is for the pot to call the kettle black. The Christian role has not been much better and it is needless to recall the desecration of Christ'steachings by those who professed to preach Christianity all over the world, particularly in Latin America and in Goa. Has His Holiness forgotten the inquisition? But Hindus have not demanded an apology from the Pope. That would be wasting their time. They know themselves. They have not gone to Portugal or Spain or Italy to convert pagan Europeans to Hinduism. They have not. Nor have they indulged in the orgy of tearing down churches and masjids as Christians and Muslims have torn down temples, which is an exclusive privilege of the monotheistic religions with their original base in the Middle East.
No Hindu king has invaded Saudi Arabia to build a temple next to the Kaaba in Mecca, as Aurangzeb did to build a mosque next to the sacred Vishwanath Temple in Banaras. Hinduism is not fundamentalist as are Christianity and Islam. So they can afford to laugh at the quarrel between the Pope and Islam and sit back and watch the fun as two fundamentalist religions go at each other'sthroat. The RSS had wisely decided not to comment on the issue. Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI will remember how, only the other day, he berated Hindu ?fundamentalists?. He must have been badly tutored. Hindus are free to worship any God or no God. That is their strength. There is no fundamentalism in Hinduism. It is the freest religion in the world side by side with Buddhism.
Perhaps His Holiness will not have to be told that he is the world'struest fundamentalist, though he may like to co-opt Lenin and Stalin in the fundamentalist club. What the Pope lays down is law. The Pope is infallible who can say, in this day and age, that the ?only? true religion is the Roman Catholic Church?and get away with it. His early predecessor, Pope Piux XII came under heavy criticism for not condemning the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. To the best of one'sknowledge, neither has Pope Benedict condemned the Holocaust. The Vatican looked the other way as a few million Jews were systematically despatched to the gas chambers. Christian values, no doubt prevailed.
When oral contraceptives became popular, Pope Paul VI through his encyclical Humane Vitae brought out on July 25, 1968, opposed artificial family planning and never mind if not all Catholics accepted the fatwa. Pope Johan Paul II is respectfully hosted in India?though not in China?and for that gracious hospitality, he proclaimed that it is time for all Asians to be Christians! His ecclesiastical document Dominus Lesus issued on August 6, 2000 mentioned that Catholicism was the only perfect road to salvation, just as Islam sincerely believes that Mohammad is Allah'sonly prophet. The stress is on the world only. There is no question here of sarvadharma samabhava. There is no question of freedom to think.
According to the Daily Mail (August 23, 2006) Pope Benedict has sacked his chief astronomer after a series of public clashes over the theory of evolution. He removed Father George Coyne from his position as Director of the Vatican Observatory after the American Jesuit priest repeatedly contradicted the holy seer'sendorsement of ?intelligent design? which essentially backs the ?Adam and Eve? theory of creation.
Pope Benedict favours ? intelligent design? which says that God directs the process of evolution in contradiction to Charles Darwin'stheory of the survival of the fittest. Darwin, unfortunately did not insist that, that too could have been God'sway of doing things. Surely God could have instructed Darwin to think on those lines? It would seem that Father Coyne'smost notable intervention came after Cardinal Christopher Schonborn of Vienna, a former student of the Pope, put the case for ?intelligent design? in an article in The New York Times last year. The cardinal argued that Darwin'sconcepts of ?random variation and natural selection? were incompatible with the Catholic belief that there is a divine purpose and design to nature.
Nature does not act independently of God. Father Coyne questioned this approach and averred that religious believers must move away from the notion of a ?dictator or designer God?.
But Catholics have no right to think in any other way than the principles laid down by the Pope and poor Father Coyne got the sack.
Does anyone remember dear old Galilio Galilee who had to apologise for saying that the earth moves round the sun and not the other way around? But one must be sympathetic towards the Pope. His Holiness shares fundamentalism with his Islamic friends and together they make a lovely pair. One excuses the inquisition. The other favours Islamic terrorism. All in the name of God. It is okay for Jesuits to destroy temples, not one or two but hundreds, in Goa. After all they were only doing the duty God has laid down, they should perform, weren'tthey? It is respectfully suggested to His Holiness that he should not criticise Islam. Christianity shares some delectable values with Islam?and they are so apparent. But in these days of violence, it is heartening to hear that the Pope actually believes that ?violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul? and that no one can ?use the motive of religious difference as a reason or pretext for bellicose behaviour towards other human beings?. He should write to Gen. Musharraf on this theme. And give up all thought of proselytisation which is an insult to God. Hindus do not believe in conversion. Their motto is sarvejanahasukhino bhavantu. Let everyone be happy, is their earnest prayer. They do not insist that every body must be a Hindu to attain salvation. But thank you, Your Holiness, for your new thesis. Hindus don'twant any apology from you for the past conduct of your holy soldiers.
We only hope that in future you will stick to your latest conviction that violence is evil. That is what the Buddha said; what the Jina said; and what Gandhi said. We are glad that you have freshly discovered them.