Violence never in God's name: Pope

2011-03-10 12:00

Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI rejects the idea of Jesus as a political revolutionary and insists that violent revolution must never be carried out in God's name in a new book being released on Thursday amid great fanfare at the start of Lent.

Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, is the second instalment of Benedict's planned trilogy on Jesus. Part I, which covered Jesus' early ministry, shot to the top of the best-seller lists in Italy when it was published in 2007.

Already, 1.2 million copies of Part II have been printed in seven languages, and reprints of 100 000 more are planned for the Italian editions and 50 000 in German.

In the book, Benedict exonerates the Jews as a people for Christ's death. He also insists that Jesus never advocated violent revolution, as some liberation theologians have suggested, saying violence was not His way no matter how valid the motivation.

Benedict has spoken out frequently to denounce religiously motivated violence against Christians in the Middle East, Pakistan and elsewhere. "The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to us all," he noted in the book.

"Violence does not build up the kingdom of God, the kingdom of humanity. On the contrary, it is a favourite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be," Benedict wrote. "It serves, not humanity, but inhumanity."

'Thank you' from Israel

The Vatican and its foreign-language publishers have gone to remarkable lengths to promote the new book, co-ordinating the release of excerpts, scheduling prime-time press conferences and releasing the 362-page text to coincide with the run-up to Holy Week, when the faithful commemorate Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

In the book, Benedict concludes that the Jews as a people weren't responsible for Jesus' death, but only a few Jewish leaders and their supporters, affirming that the centuries of mistrust of Christians toward Jews was deeply misplaced.

While the Catholic Church has been teaching that for nearly 50 years, the fact that the pope said it so authoritatively prompted praise from major Jewish groups and a thank you note from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been a foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries," Netanyahu wrote the pope after excerpts of the book were released last week.

In the book, Benedict also asserts that the Catholic Church shouldn't concern itself now with trying to convert Jews, though he stresses the need for all Christians to "visibly" unite - a veiled call for other Christians to convert to Catholicism.

The acknowledgment that Jews are in a special category as far as conversion goes is significant given that Benedict in 2007 irked some Jewish leaders when he allowed for a prayer for the conversion of Jews to be celebrated more widely in some traditional Good Friday services.

Unprecedented book

Jacob Neusner, a prominent Jewish expert on Judaism and Christianity who has had a 25-year correspondence with Benedict on the figure of Jesus, praised the book for blending theology and history and for its "courageous" exoneration of the Jews.

"He has accomplished something that no one else has achieved in the modern study of Scripture," Neusner told a conference call on Wednesday organised by the book's US publishers.

Brant Pitre, a Catholic professor of scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, said the book was unprecedented, given that the pope, who turns 84 next month, is fairly busy running the 1 billion-strong Catholic Church and administering the Holy See.

"Never before in the history of the church have we had a reigning pope write a full length study of the life of Jesus," Pitre said. "Just on that level this is truly a historic publication."

In the book, Benedict gives a chronological account of Jesus' final days, citing Gospel accounts and scholarly commentaries. He said his aim wasn't to make a purely historical or faith-based analysis, but rather a combination that would allow for the reader to experience a "personal relationship with Jesus".

"Even if there will always be details that remain open for discussion, I still hope that I have been granted an insight into the figure of our Lord that can be helpful to all readers who seek to encounter Jesus and to believe in him," Benedict wrote.


That said, biblical experts agreed the book isn't for everyone. It's dense and academic, in Benedict's scholarly, theological style.

"My guess would be that this book is specifically user-friendly for entry-level seminary students, educated lay people with a lot of theological acumen, obviously clergy of various kinds," said Ben Witherington III, an evangelical Biblical scholar at the Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

But Craig Evans, a Protestant bible expert, said Protestants of many stripes would be surprised at how Protestant the book reads, and that he wouldn't hesitate to put it on his syllabus for his conservative, Baptist seminary students.

"If it didn't say Pope Benedict on the cover, they might not even be sure they were reading a Catholic book," he said.

Benedict said that he plans to write the third and final instalment of the trilogy, on Jesus' infancy, "if I am given the strength".

  • Gorilla - 2011-03-10 12:14

    The Pope is fooling nobody. Countless millions of people have been slaughtered and cities have been razed to the ground, and this was all in the name of god. god is the prime reason much violence was justified, unlike the bible, these facts are there in black and white and can be proven in the history books.

      nic - 2011-03-10 12:44

      More lives lost in religious wars than in both world wars combined. Go figure

      Crimson - 2011-03-10 12:48

      I don't see how your comment is relevant to the article. The pope is not justifying what happened in the past, he is condemning it.

  • CynicBelieve - 2011-03-10 12:32

    Uhm... what about the crusades? Wasn't that done in the name of religion?

      DeadWorld - 2011-03-10 12:46

      I believe he is condemning that as well.

      Gallows - 2011-03-10 13:19

      @DeadWorld - And that makes it ok? Are you serious?

      marc.dhotman - 2011-03-10 14:23

      Not in the name of religion I understand religion was the excuse used for the conquests. The church has always condemned violence.

  • Bloodbane - 2011-03-10 14:02

    see issue here is: who the hell does he think he is saying he knows gods thought.... it amazes men that any twit can think he knows what this fictinal characters thoughts me where it gives any prove that god did not condone those wars.... and tell me where is the proof that god did.... if there was a god who the hell are we to say what this thought are.... load of rubish

  • Madelane - 2011-03-10 14:16

    How anyone could possibly think that Jesus had anything to do with politics is unbelievable given the gross dishonesty and deceit that is the makeup of the political class. His teachings were about gentleness, love and peace and only of a spiritual nature. Mankind is the creature that kills everything in the name of his 'god'. A god that he has created to justify his barbarity and certainly not the God of which Jesus spoke.

      Zeus - 2011-03-10 17:48

      Politics started in heaven! It will end with heaven. Mr.Popey doesnt preach the second coming! Its a threat to Catholisism! No man can serve two masters!

  • Markal - 2011-03-10 15:20

    I wonder how many millions of dollars will be extorted from the faithful this time. If this is truly such a revolutionary book, should it not be handed out for free? Is the idea not to spread the word of God to as many people as possible? Same principle goes for the bible.

  • James - 2011-03-10 15:22

    What the church says, and what the church actually does - are two completely different things. Actions speak louder than words, and we all very well know their actions..

  • OzzyInSA - 2011-03-10 15:25

    It shows how out of touch the Papacy is with the Bible. He says violent revolution must never be carried out in God's name. Which is exactly whath the Bible has been teaching for centuries. However, how about the Popes that blessed the Italian soliders in World Wars 1 and 2? Does he not critise them? This goes against 2 of the Bible teachings; not to make war annot to side with the nations. What a hypocrite! And no wonder why many are disillusioned with the Churches. Babylon the Great, indeed!

  • Craig - 2011-03-10 15:39

    The pope doesnt read the bible... Matthew 27:15-18 clearly says that the crowd wanted Barrabas set free, and Jesus crucified...The pope should stay away from the apocrypha

  • trevb - 2011-03-10 16:04

    WTF ! majority of all wars EVER have been fought in the name of "GOD" > The rest over land and resources.

  • Zeus - 2011-03-10 17:51

    Dear Mr.Pope! You are living in time of feet and clay! You should start theology there! The gods have had a vision!!!We all know where it ends!Money wont get your church to heaven! Zeus

  • Jakob - 2011-04-26 07:41

    excuse me? u c. the difference between jesus, and elijah... is that jesus wanted the heathens to live, where as with elijah the heathens was put to death... now u decide which is right...

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