11 September 2010

Paprocki on Ground Zero, Auschwitz and the Crusades

Like so many others today and in recent days, the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki reflects in his current column in the Catholic Times, "Lex Cordis Caritas," on the events of September 11th, 2001.

His thoughts lead to him to a consideration that is well worth reading of the proposed building of an Islamic cultural center at the site of Ground Zero, Auschwitz and the Crusades (with my emphases and comments):

....It is in this context that much debate has taken place recently about the proposed construction of a mosque near “Ground Zero” of the World Trade Center that was demolished by the terrorists on 9/11. I don’t live in New York, so I will defer to the wise and prudent advice offered by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who invoked the example of Pope John Paul II. In 1993, the Holy Father ordered a community of Carmelite nuns to move from their convent at the former Auschwitz death camp after protests from Jewish leaders. Although many Polish Catholics were also killed at Auschwitz, the Jewish leaders thought the presence of the Catholic nuns detracted from the symbolism of Auschwitz as a place where the Nazis had exterminated millions of Jews. The Carmelite nuns certainly had a right to pray there, but Pope John Paul II was sensitive to the feelings of others and so they moved voluntarily [This seems a reasonable that comparison that I've not seen from others].

Similarly, no one is questioning the legal and constitutional right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but it is more a matter of being sensitive to the feelings of people whose loved ones were murdered in the terrorist attacks. Nor is it a matter of tolerance. Americans are a very tolerant people when it comes to freedom of worship. As at Auschwitz, it is a matter of symbolism. Certainly not all Muslims are terrorists, but all the terrorist attackers on 9/11 were Islamist extremists.

Whenever a Christian mentions Islamist terrorists, someone is usually quick to point to Christian involvement in the Crusades [Only because they neither know nor understand history]. Some Islamist terrorists even claim that their terrorist attacks are revenge for what Christians did in the crusades. Actually, the crusades were responses to Muslim invasions to recapture lands originally occupied primarily by Christians [a point raised only too infrequently]. From approximately A.D. 200 to 900, the land of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. Once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands.

In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings and emperors from Europe ordered the crusades to reclaim the land the Muslims had taken. I am not trying to defend the Crusades. The actions that many so-called Christians took in the crusades were deplorable and not in keeping with biblical teaching or the mission of Jesus Christ. The point is that Islam is not a religion that can speak from a position of innocence in these matters. In short, the crusades were attempts in the 11th through 13th centuries A.D. to reclaim land in the Middle East that had been conquered by Muslims.

There is much painful history that still divides Christians, Muslims and Jews. We need much more dialogue to overcome these divisions. The way to peace is for all Christians, Muslims and Jews to renounce violence and all acts of terrorism.
The more I read Bishop Paprocki's writings I read, the happier I am that he is my Bishop.

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