The Pope As Politician

Vatican political intrigue often makes Washington’s political antics look downright tame.  While most of Washington’s inner workings has a good chance at making page one in a major daily newspaper, the same is not true for the Vatican. There is a mysterious, and at times dark imagery, to the inside workings of the robed ones.  When something newsworthy takes place with the Pope, or the higher operations of the Catholic Church, it is often left to speculation as to what really happened, and why.

Such is the case with the welcomed news that Pope Benedict XVI has endorsed the idea of Turkey being allowed to join the European Union.  At the airport landing in Turkey, the Pope made it known to the Turkish Prime Minister that the Vatican now hoped for the inclusion of Turkey into the Union. It was a major reversal of ideas, since in 2004, while serving as Cardinal, he spoke strongly against the same idea.

I applaud the Pope’s changing of his words, and welcome it as a real gesture towards the finding of common ground with the Islamic world.  His first words in a Muslim country were a far cry from the views he espoused as a Cardinal, and he should be applauded for that action, and his tone.  I also applaud the fact that he thought it wiser to act like a politician, than the leader of the Catholic Church. 

His true inner feelings both as a staunch conservative, and a mentally robust theologian, have not changed.  We all understand that.  But he chose to rise above his own viewpoints and strive for harmony on a larger scale.  That makes him a true politician, and for all my disagreements with him on various issues, I applaud him today.

I think we would all enjoy knowing the inner workings in the corridors of the Vatican that led to this reversal of words.  Was there an agreement that the Pope needed a grand gesture to combat the anger that his previous comments on Islam had unleashed?  How much is symbolism, and how much is true movement towards a united relationship with the Islamic world?

We will not know the answers for a long time, but history proves they will be consequential.
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