Monday, November 14, 2005

It must have been the Bekaa Valley

ROMA, November 14, 2005 – Since the end of August, the Holy See has had a new apostolic nuncio for Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and Qatar.

The new nuncio in these Gulf states is archbishop Mounged El-Hachem (in the photo), 71, a Maronite from Lebanon, previously the bishop of Baalbek and Deir El-Ahmar, in the Bekaa valley. Before that he worked at the Vatican secretariat of state. From 1970 to 1978, when he was in Rome, El-Hachem was also the vice-director of the Holy See’s press office. He speaks fluent Arabic, English, French, and Italian. He lives in Kuwait.

Read the complete article The New Nuncio in the Gulf Is Off to a Good Start – By Bowing to Terrorists from www.chiesa.

After laying out El-Hachem's credentials and past experience, Sandro Magister goes on to lay out the reasons for his title for the article. Magister quotes the archbishop's comments to a Lebanese weekly where the archbishop laid out an analysis of Islamic terrorism (including the idea that such terrorism is not related to Islam). Here is the quotes from the Lebanese weekly in full from Magister's piece:

But one passage from his first public interview has provoked surprise and disappointment in the Vatican.

El-Hachem gave a long, elaborate interview to the English-language Lebanese weekly “Monday Morning,” which published it in its edition number 1714, dated October 31, 2005.

In it, he restated the Church’s opposition to the war in Iraq, which “can only deepen the gulf between the parties and increase fanaticism.”

He didn’t say a word about the present phase of democratization in that country.

But he dedicated many words to analyzing Islamist terrorism and expressing appreciation for its motives.

To a question about the link between religion and terrorism, El-Hachem replied:

“First of all, I categorically reject any link between religion and terrorism, although I understand your question in view of the present situation. I consider that terror is the result of repression, of suffering, of injustice directed against a person, a group or a particular people, who lose all that they possess and no longer have anything to regret or to lose.

“This reminds me of the distressing incident at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when young Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes. I recall the shocked outcry throughout the world and the strong condemnation by the international community. At that time I was in the Vatican. It was a sunny Sunday and pope Paul VI appeared at his window and addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in these words: ‘We too reprove and denounce the massacre in Munich, but we ask the following question: why have young Palestinians committed this act? We reply: because the Palestinian people (it was the first time anyone had spoken of the Palestinian ‘people’) have been the victims of the most dangerous of injustices in the history of humanity, an innocent and peaceable people turned out of their land, who have lost their roots and identity amid the indifference of the entire world… What impelled these young men to commit this act was to attract the attention of the world to their cause.’

“This papal intervention greatly changed opinion on this drama. The terrorism through which we live today is the result of an accumulation of events. Terrorist acts flow from distress and from a despair of ever recovering one’s rights. And such is the despair, in some cases, that an individual may be driven to suicide as a means of protest and of drawing attention to his plight. Religion, on the contrary, offers hope, faith in God, in man and in divine justice, which makes up for the earthly justice that is sometimes deficient.”

Magister goes on to debunk the comments of the archbishop. First of all he cites the comments of the present Pope, who links terrorism to a perversion of Islam and condemns it. Magister then goes on to point out that Pope Paul VI, the supposed linchpin of the archbishop's argument, said no such thing as is attributed to him in 1972.

But if you re-read the words Paul VI really spoke at the Angelus and at the Wednesday general audience before that, where he also commented on the massacre in Munich, you will find nothing of what El-Hachem puts into his mouth.

In the authentic words of Paul VI, one does not find the expression “Palestinian people,” nor, above all, the explanation of the massacre carried out by the terrorists as something animated by their condition as innocent victims.

And of course, Magister gives the comments of Paul VI from September 5th and 12th in full. Check those out yourself. The piece ends with this:

At the beginning of his interview with “Monday Morning,” El-Hachem asserted that the first task of an apostolic nuncio is that of “representing the pope as the head of the Catholic Church.”

But on the question of Islamist terrorism, during the same interview he “represented” ideas that do not at all coincide with the authentic ideas of Paul VI, nor with those of the current pope.

Amen. By the way, in case you don't know, the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where the archbishop served for a number of years is one of the centers of Hezbollah activity in that country.

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