From the ever-perceptive Sandro Magister in Chiesa, with thanks to Panos and Anthony:
ROMA – Silence and disorientation reigned among the leaders of the Roman Church during the days immediately following the slaughter of the innocents in Beslan.
John Paul II remained silent for five days before dedicating passionate words to the “many defenseless little ones of Beslan, in Ossetia, the tragically massacred victims of a barbarous hostage situation,” and praying for the children, “the treasure of humanity,” who suffer and die throughout the world. He made the remarks during his general audience Wednesday, September 8.
As for the official organs of the Holy See, in their reaction there was an unusual obfuscation of the enemy – Islamist terrorism – and a disarming silence about the religious faith of those killed.
In the region of the Russian Caucuses, which are Muslim, Ossetia is the only Christian enclave; its 700,000 inhabitants are almost all of the Orthodox faith. And it is there that the Islamist terrorists deliberately carried out the slaughter of women, men, and even more so of children.
But “L”Osservatore Romano,” the newspaper of the Holy See directed by Mario Agnes, limited itself in its September 5 edition to showing the photo of a bloody little hand grasping a cross, with the title “Crucified Innocence,” and beside it the only official Vatican pronouncement on the event up until that point: a routine telegram from the secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who communicated “the sorrow and prayer of the Holy Father” to the “Russian people,” through the apostolic nunzio in Moscow, Antonio Mennini.
On the second page, where the account of the event was given, this was the title:
“Many of the three hundred who died in the blitz were children.”
And this is how the news brief begins:
“The blitz of the Russian special forces left over three hundred dead, marking a tragic end to yesterday’s seizure by a terrorist brigade of more than a thousand persons, most of them children, in a school in the north Ossetia town of Beslan.”
The previous day, the orientation of the Vatican newspaper had been the same, with the responsibility for the “gory outcome” being ascribed in the first place to the authors of the “blitz”; that is, to the Russian special forces and their commanders, all the way up to president Vladimir Putin.
So much for “L”Osservatore Romano.” But “Avvenire” — the newspaper, directed by Dino Boffo, that is owned by the Italian bishops’ conference, headed by the pope’s vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini — went even further. Two of its four editorials, and the two headlines dominating the Sunday, September 5 edition, concentrated their attention on Putin, as if he were the greatest danger.
Of the remaining editorials, one made reference to the human aspects of the tragedy, and the other, by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, invoked interreligious dialogue to obtain peace.
* * *
Of the two political editorials published in “Avvenire” on September 5, the more unbalanced is that of Maurizio Blondet, a special correspondent and a columnist of the newspaper.
Blondet begins by charging Putin with this fault:
“Labeling nationalist combatants as Islamic terrorists has been a convenient justification for the most inhuman form of repression: one does not negotiate with terrorists or criminals. One uproots them.”
But then he extends the criticism to the West. And in particular, to the heads of the United States and Israel:
“Analogous accusations can be applied to Bush and Sharon. The fair-haired Kremlin tsar is accused of capitalizing on the fear of his people, presenting himself as an iron-fisted protector, while his inflexibility has, in reality, added to the insecurity. This is true. But then why is it politically incorrect to raise the same objections about the “˜born-again Christian” from Texas and the obese general of Tel Aviv? None of the three — if one considers well — is exempt from suspicions of having exploited collective fear for his electoral advantage, or of using the necessary restrictions of liberty brought by the ‘war on terror’ to silence his critics and adversaries.”
Blondet’s vision of the world is known. He has exhaustively exposed it in books and commentaries, for example in those compiled at www.effedieffe.com/interventi.html. He has written that George Bush invaded Iraq for the sole purpose of “eliminating a regime that threatened Israel”; that the White House “is in the hands of the neo-cons, who are almost all Zionists”; that one of the authors of the bloodbath in Madrid on March 11, 2004 “seems to have been a Jew” and that the “Islamic” network to which he belonged “had been infiltrated by Mossad,” the Israeli secret service.
And on the execution by Israel of the leader of Hamas, sheikh Yassim:
“Sheikh Yassim had proposed to Israel ‘a ten-year ceasefire’ in exchange for the formation of a Palestinian state in the Gaza strip and the occupied territories. It was a very important sign of openness, an offer of negotiations. And this is precisely why Israel cut him down, only to complain afterward that there is no one else with whom to negotiate. Israel does not negotiate, because it considers itself the Messiah, and in Talmudic doctrine, the messianic times ‘are [a time] of conquest, not of negotiation and concession.’ Israel uses other human beings like flesh to be gnawed upon, because that’s what its religion teaches: non-Jews ‘have no place in the world to come,’ if not that of servants and human fodder to be endlessly oppressed. Israel does not negotiate because it cannot become a normal state, with normal obligations and normal rights. Israel cannot integrate, because only the children of Abraham are destined for the promise. Israel wants to be the ghetto of all the Jews: it could live in peace, and it builds a wall around itself. Israel is afraid of the human race. It hates it, it despises it, it uses it, and it fears it. Nothing will ever calm Israel’s fear, because it is born from within itself. It is born from its own knowledge of its radical wickedness.”
It is striking that on the day following the slaughter in Beslan — an authentic September 11 of the Christian children — the newspaper of the Church of Rome and of Italy should have entrusted its principal political commentary to an analyst of such an orientation.
* * *
On Sunday, September 5, the same day on which John Paul II, in Loreto, remained silent on the slaughter at Beslan, in Milan the eparch Feofan, Orthodox bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz in Ossetia, spoke out.
He spoke of it as an eyewitness. And in accents different from those used by the ecclesiastical organs cited above:
“I closed the eyes of children shot in the back by the terrorists, I carried them in my arms. Can anyone who carries out such acts be called a liberator? One does not fight for liberty by killing children. There is a lesson hear for all of humanity: terrorism is an evil that can strike anywhere, in New York, in Madrid, on a bus. And humanity has no other choice than to unite against terrorism. This struggle comes first of all; afterward we can clarify our political differences.”
Feofan spoke on the first day of the meeting “Peoples and Religions,” held this year September 5-7 in Milan, organized by the archdiocese and the Community of Sant’Egidio, with the participation of many Catholic proponents and those of other religious confessions.
And with his unscripted words, he touched the point on which the authorities of the Catholic Church appear most uncertain and perplexed: that of relations with Islam.
In effect, concern for protecting the Christian minorities in Islamic countries pressures Church authorities to defend the stability of the authoritarian regimes in those countries, and to adopt very permissive forms of dialogue with Muslim representatives.
In the face of the global challenge of Islamist terrorism, their illusion is that by denying the very existence of that challenge — for example, by the continual, ritual deprecation and denial of the “clash of civilizations” — they remove the Church from the list of possible targets.
Read it all.