The Holy See's new nuncio to Kuwait and several other Gulf States, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, a Lebanese Maronite Christian, recently gave an interview to Monday Morning, a Beirut-based newspaper. El-Hachem's comments illustrate the views of one of the Vatican's most important representatives in the Muslim world.
"The Holy See is convinced that the solution chosen by President George W. Bush and his allies is not a good one," El-Hachem said, referring to the U.S.-ledwar in Iraq.
"His holiness the pope, the Maronite patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite archbishops and bishops and all the dignitaries of the Catholic church have spoken out against the war, since it can only deepen the gulf between the parties and increase fanaticism," El-Hachem said.
Asked about a link between religion and terrorism, El-Hachem gave this response.
"I consider that terror is the result of repression, of suffering, of injustice directed against a person, a group or a particular people, who lose all that they possess and no longer have anything to regret or to lose," he said.
"This reminds me of the distressing incident at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when young Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes. I recall the shocked outcry throughout the world and the strong condemnation by the international community. At that time I was in the Vatican. Pope Paul VI appeared at his window and addressed the faithful: 'We too reprove and denounce the massacre in Munich, but we ask the following question: Why have young Palestinians committed this act? We reply: because the Palestinian people (it was the first time anyone had spoken of the Palestinian 'people') have been the victims of the most dangerous of injustices in the history of humanity, an innocent and peaceable people turned out of their land, who have lost their roots and identity amid the indifference of the entire world… What impelled these young men to commit this act was to attract the attention of the world to their cause.'"
"This papal intervention greatly changed opinion on this drama," El-Hachem said. "Terrorist acts flow from distress and from despair of ever recovering one's rights. And such is the despair, in some cases, that an individual may be driven to suicide as a means of protestand of drawing attention to his plight."
I have some questions for Archbishop El-Hachem. Would Ghandi have agreed with Paul VI? Are we to understand from his statement that the murderers who killed over 3,000 people on September 11, 2001 did so because...the U.S. had taken their Saudi homeland away from them? Are we to understand that he believes the al-qaeda thugs currently murdering Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. soldiers are doing so...because the U.S. took Saddam's murderous dictatorship...away from them? And, since he and so many other prelates have been thus far mute in words of congratulation to the millions of Iraqis who turned out despite the threat of death to vote themselves a constitution, are we to believe he regrets the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?
("We too..." Sure.)
While I'm at it, since the Nuncio's words could be construed...in his thoughtful efforts to dignify the motivation for the greatest source of mass murder in today's world (including but not restricted to the beheadings of little Christian girls, blowing up old ladies and shooting unarmed Iraqis)... to be condoning evil in a righteous cause, are Radical U.S. Catholics now to understand that...say, shooting abortionists will be similarly "understood" by the Church?
These are just some of the questions that come up as I read the archbishop's comments (and scratch my head).
Yeah, "We, too" indeed.
Update: 11.15.05: Thanks to Sandro Magister for showing that the good archbishop was...how you say...misprepresenting the Pope.