Preaching tolerance in the Holy Land

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Preaching tolerance in the Holy Land

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The film “Angels & Demons” that was released on May 14 contains criticism of Catholic history in medieval times.

Based on a novel by Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” the movie is about descendants of medieval scientists who were oppressed by the Catholic Church, who seek revenge on the Vatican. The film subtly demands self-reflection from the Catholic world.

Around the time it opened worldwide, the Pope visited the Middle East, including Israel, and conveyed a message of reconciliation and coexistence to Protestants, Jews and Muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI expressed his condolences when he visited Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and announced that he supports the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in Bethlehem. He showed his respect in a balanced, unbiased way.

Tolerance of other religions is not new at all for the Catholic Church. In 1965, the Vatican already elucidated its position that a way for Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions to coexist could be found in an age where we all live together through the “Nostra Aetate”(the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council).

The main point of the declaration is that “all persecutions that are caused by race or skin color or social conditions or religious discrimination will be considered contrary to the values of Christianity and opposed.”

However, Pope Benedict XVI, who is originally from Germany, has already experienced hardships due to conservative actions that contradict this mindset.

When he was a cardinal in 1990, he was often criticized for supporting the Vatican’s labeling of the scientist Galileo Galilei as a heretic. And in 2006, Arab countries complained about a remark he made that belittled Islam.

On top of that, he openly revealed anti-Judaism tendencies and reinstated a clergyman who was expelled in 1988, provoking antipathy from Jews.

There was some tension watching a Pope with such a history visiting these hot spots this time around, but he completed his 15-day tour without any problems.

After Pope Urbanus II told “all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends” in 1095, the Middle East has suffered bloodbaths by crusaders and Islamist soldiers for hundreds of years.

The fact that the present Pope is preaching peace in the Holy Land 900 years later gives me comfort that the spirit of Nostra Aetate is still being respected.

The writer is a team manager at JES Entertainment.

By Song Won-sup [five@joongang.co.kr]
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