Several posts have surfaced across the internet in the past week prior to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon leading many to falsely believe claims some of which defame the Pope in many way. As many of you already know Benedict will be in Lebanon on a three day trip. He will land in Beirut on Friday and will stay until Sunday afternoon.
However how much do we really know about the Pope? And no, facebook is not right about allegations portraying the Pope as a Nazi soldier.
Here are some few facts. The picture you see above, depicting a young boy is yes, none other than the Holy See; only then he would have been hailed by his original name Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger.
Ratzinger was born in Bavaria, Germany on 16 April 1927. His father served in both the Bavarian State Police was described as “an anti-Nazi whose attempts to resist the reign forced the family to move several times.”
The pope’s brother Georg said: ”Our father was a bitter enemy of Nazism because he believed it was in conflict with our faith”.
The family had a sadder encounter with the Nazi regime when Ratzinger’s cousin with Down’s Syndrome who in 1941 was 14 years old. This cousin was just a few months younger than Ratzinger and was taken away by the Nazi authorities for “therapy” never to return. Not long afterwards, the family received word that he was dead, presumably through a Nazi program to eliminate all handicapped persons aka the Action T4.
Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was enrolled in the Hitler Youth, as membership was legally required in effect beginning 25 March 1939.
In 1943, when he was 16, Joseph Ratzinger was drafted with many of his classmates into the Luftwaffenhelfer program. A program commonly known as Flakhelfer or anti-aircraft warfare helpers which deployed as child soldiers during World War II.
In late April or early May, shortly before Germany’s surrender, Ratzinger deserted. Desertion was widespread during the last weeks of the war, even though punishable by death (executions, frequently extrajudicial, continued to the end); diminished morale and the greatly diminished risk of prosecution from a preoccupied and disorganized German military contributed to the growing wave of soldiers looking toward self-preservation.
On 19 April 2005, Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots. Ratzinger had hoped to retire peacefully and said that “At a certain point, I prayed to God ‘please don’t do this to me’…Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.
Ratzinger chose the pontifical name Benedict, which comes from the Latin word meaning “the blessed”, in honor of both Pope Benedict XV and Saint Benedict of Nursia. Pope Benedict XV was Pope during the First World War, during which time he passionately pursued peace between the warring nations.
Cotroversy with Islam
Pope Benedict’s relations with Islam have been strained at times. On 12 September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. Muslims were particularly offended by the following quotation from the Pope’s speech: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.
The passage originally appeared in the “Dialogue Held With A Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia” written in 1391 as an expression of the views of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, on such issues as forced conversion, holy war, and the relationship between faith and reason. According to the German text, the Pope’s original comment was that the emperor “addresses his interlocutor in an astoundingly harsh—to us surprisingly harsh—way.
Pope Benedict apologized for any offence he had caused and made a point of visiting Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, and praying in its Blue Mosque.
Visit to Lebanon:
Pope Benedict arrived for a the three-day visit on Friday takeing the pope to the “nation with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East nearly 40 percent of Lebanon’s 4 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect,” according to AP.
Benedict, the third pope to visit Lebanon after Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 1997, addressed concerns by the region’s bishops over the plight of Christians in the Middle East. War, political instability and economic hardships have driven thousands from their traditional communities dating to early Christianity in the Holy Land, Iraq and elsewhere.
The Vatican stressed Benedict’s push for inter-faith dialogue in the wake of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death at the hands of a mob enraged by a film that ridicules Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The Lebanese army has imposed a 10-day ban on gliding over the coastal town of Jounieh and the mountain area of Harisa and its surroundings. Harisa, famous for its giant statue of the Virgin Mary, is the site of the Vatican ambassador’s residence, where Benedict will reside.