As a follow-up to his earlier translations about last Sunday’s Islamic prayer in the Vatican, Rembrandt Clancy has translated the full interview with a Jesuit priest, Fr. Felix Körner, from whose words we had previously only been able to post excerpts.
In his email accompanying the text of his translation, Rembrandt Clancy included the following cogent analysis of the Church of Rome’s implied abandonment of two millennia of Christian theology. In essence, traditional Christianity is now being replaced with a secular, worldly religion commonly known as Multiculturalism:
That this prayer event took place on Pentecost is of the utmost significance for the new religion, hence it may be no accident that Fr. Körner defines prayer as “inspiration”.
There is another angle to this incident which is important for Western culture, insofar as Christianity is its centre.
Upon reading this interview, it becomes apparent that we are not dealing here with the venerable Catholicism of the West at all, but with an entirely new religion, which, while it persists in calling itself Catholic, has one God (Deism) which can be shared with other religions. What makes the new orientation deceptive, is that it does not explicitly renounce the Catholic deposit of faith, or change it totally; rather it is a question of emphasis and of a new contextualisation of doctrines. The emphasis in Fr. Körner’s remarks is one of a post Vatican II man-centredness, the striving for a “horizontal” earthly utopia, “creating a new world”.
The key to understanding the ideology is ecumenism, which is not a method, but a collectivism, easily recognisable as Multiculturalism in religious garb, for by default it emphasises the commonalities among religions and minimises the differences, which are only “accentuations”. Like multiculturalism it dispenses with its own heritage, its “signs of faith”. Its method is dialogue, rather than “Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 28:19). The emphasis on the Trinity would have made this prayer meeting impossible, and un-Islamic; and also the quotation is the mandate of the once visible Catholic Church. The secular character of this neo-Catholicism is recognisable in the emphasis on the horizontal: “prayer is in general … inspiration first of all, on a horizontal, worldly plane.” That this “inspiration” took place on Pentecost may be no accident. But herein lies the French Revolutionary influence, and the royal road to earthly utopia.
by Rembrandt Clancy
A recent post on Gates of Vienna featured a translation from the German Catholic Internet portal, kath.net. It contains a few excerpts from an interview of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Felix Körner, who defends an imam’s unauthorised recitation of certain lines from the Koran during the “Prayer for Peace” meeting in the Vatican gardens on Pentecost Sunday (8 June 2014).
Below is the English translation of what appears to be the full German text of that interview, posted by Radio Vatikan on 11 June 2014. The posting clearly acknowledges, in its introduction, that the imam who chanted from the Koran broke diplomatic protocol by introducing text into the ceremony without the delegations having agreed to it in advance. The article also reverses a previous denial by the Vatican that the imam did not recite anything that was not previously agreed, and therefore nothing controversial; in particular, the last line of Sura 2 of the Koran which translated from the German reads “Help us against the tribe (Volk) of unbelievers”.
Islam Specialist: Koran Recitation at the Prayer for Peace is Legitimate
Source: Radio Vatikan
Translation: Rembrandt Clancy
11 June 2014
During the Prayer for Peace which took place in the Vatican gardens with the presidents of Israel and Palestine, a marginal incident occurred which in retrospect is causing disquiet. On Pentecost Sunday the two senior politicians of the two neighbouring states [Nachbarstaaten] which are in a hostile relationship to each other, had accepted the invitation of Pope Francis. Prayer intercessions followed one another; first the Jewish, then the Christian and finally the Muslim intercession. An imam from the Islamic delegation then recited, in Arabic — over and beyond the scope of the programme — the three final verses of the second Sura of the Koran. Here is the last sentence translated into German:
“Verzeih uns (Allah), vergib uns und erbarm dich unser! Du bist unser Schutzherr. Hilf uns gegen das Volk der Ungläubigen!”
[Translation directly from the German: “Pardon us (Allah), forgive us and have mercy on us! You are our protector. Help us against the tribe [Volk] of unbelievers.]
Now a few observers have viewed this last verse as an attack on the two other religions, an “effrontery on Christian soil”. How is this issue to be understood? Gudrun Sailer asks this question of Islam scholar Fr. Felix Körner, a Jesuit who teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
“A Muslim always understands the Koran as its original hearers understood it. And that means: we must place ourselves in Islam’s early period; in this case, we are perhaps still in Mecca or in the first years in Medina when Islam is a small group which still correctly sees itself as persecuted by polytheists, pagan groups from whom Mohammed and his supporters wish to get away. “Unbeliever” means, in this case, men who do not recognise the one God. When therefore this Koran passage makes reference to unbelievers against whom we beg God’s help, then it is completely clear that what is meant here is not the Jews and also not the Christians, both of whom naturally recognise the oneness of God!”
“Help us against the people who are unbelievers!” When we hear this Koran passage from our contemporary perspective as Christians — or Jews — within the framework of a meeting which is concerned with peace, then it lies within our cultural sphere to understand this as a call to proselytise or even to conquer. Is that a misunderstanding on our part?
“This verse, perhaps spontaneously selected by someone who then also recited the Koran from memory, actually fitted very well into the overall context of the Prayer for Peace! There are always three steps in the three religions: We recognise the Creator and praise Him, we recognise our guilt and confess it and we plead for the gift of peace. And all that comes out very beautifully in these three verses of the Koran. To You, God, belongs everything. We repent our guilt and ask forgiveness. And we need Your help so that peace and justice can arise. That is the content of these three verses, and for that reason the choice was quite understandable — perhaps spontaneously hit upon, but at any event, well chosen.”
Now all elements of the Prayer for Peace and the speeches were agreed in advance among the three parties. This one passage of the imam, on the other hand, was not. That was spontaneous. Do you think his recitation would have been approved by the Jewish and Christian parties had they arranged it in advance?
“At the Gregorian University I once experienced what was for me an illuminating scenario. I had asked a Koran exegete, a very reasonable, circumspect, moderate person, to give a lecture on the Koran; and he asked me whether he might also recite the Koran verses on which he was about to speak; that is, to recite them melodically, to chant them. I agreed, and then I noticed that a certain disquiet arose in the audience. When the Koran is recited in its aesthetic beauty in Arabic, before it is translated, it can arouse in Christians, but equally in Muslims too, a certain emotion to the point of causing unease. It may well be that the problem that one can bring to preliminary talks is precisely this; that the Koran is chanted, it is melodically recited. The chanting has a singular charm, but it can also lead to a particular religious intensity which perhaps some people consider unjustified or out of place in such a prayer meeting.
We have to make ourselves clear: In the Vatican gardens the religions did not come together in order to pray together, but each recited their prayer texts in their own way. The others remained meditatively quiet, listening and attentive at the same time, but they did not say the prayers, which others were supposed to enjoin. In this respect, a Koran recitation at such a meeting is also completely legitimate, understandable and reasonable, and it is to be acknowledged.”
“A Koran verse which is meant to express the highest esteem”.
What differentiates us Christians from Muslims and Jews when at prayer? What are the various conceptions of prayer which we have?
“When Muslims pray, they trust in God, because he is almighty. When Jews pray — one can summarise it this way — they trust in God, because they are His chosen people. When we Christians pray, then we trust in the Father, because he bestowed Christ on us. Now that is a difference in accentuation [unterschiedliche Akzentuierung]. But we could understand each in a different way and also appraise them contrastingly.”
There is something in connection with the prayers for peace in the Vatican garden, now being debated, which is remarkably reminiscent of the results attendant on the so called Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI in September of 2006. We recall: The Pope conveyed an Islam-critical quotation, the content of which he did not adopt as his own and he expressly identified it as a quotation. However, it filled Muslims with consternation and made them angry. Do you also see a parallel?
“There is a certain parallel insofar as a quotation torn out of context is particularly easily misunderstood. And if one removes from the text only the reference to unbelievers, one can easily use it as a peg upon which to hang something and then say that an infringement has taken place here. On the other hand we have in this case a Koran recitation which pertains to someone who not only quotes, but recites, and who also says: what I am reciting here is also what I believe. And in the same breath he is also saying: We Muslims, as the Koran precisely tells us, recognise the other religions with their prophets. Therefore from the Muslim side, there was by no means any deprecation or exclusion intended or expressed. Rather it was said: We are bringing here a religious idea, one which welcomes and accepts you all, and naturally in certain Koranic way, tries to set things right again. But there was nothing here which was meant to exclude or rebuff; rather a Koran verse was recited, which is meant to express the highest respect and therefore can also be received as such.”
Conversely, was there anything in the prayers to occasion the Jews and Christian parties to hear elements which could eventually lead to misunderstanding for both?
Inspiration for new thinking
“One can always hear with a biased ear — which is an expression from Goethe by the way — therefore, who hears with a biased ear, can understand everything in a biased way. For example, we Christians always pray in the name of Jesus; we pray through Christ our Lord, and also in the garden against the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica we of course prayed through Christ our Lord. Now a Jew can do so, and so can a Muslim — but it was not for this criticism to say: how could all of you say something here which is so specifically Christian, that we cannot even understand it when it comes from our Theologians? No: we pray such that in a prayer for peace one respects the other person; one also highly values his otherness, his way of believing and praying, and his bearing before God and in God.”
“We have also heard Psalm 25 from the mouth of a Rabbi. Therein one finds what many Christians know by heart: Let not my enemies triumph over me. This verse is very similar to the Koran verse which is now being so severely incriminated. We Christians pray the Psalms as the prayers of Jesus and therefore from the outset we give them the correct ranking. We know, that we require protection from God and that thinking in terms of friend versus foe does not help us get very far, but we may express even such feelings in prayer itself so that God changes us. And for that reason there is no misunderstanding here; but if one hears something in a skewed manner, one is going to have a mistaken understanding of it.”
Pope Francis had originally invited both presidents and the Patriarch “into his house” for this prayer meeting — but then it took place in the Vatican gardens. Why?
“That was a very nice decision. For one thing it was such a beautiful early summer evening, when the birds were still just twittering their last songs. It had something of God’s creation which was inspiring and was also of course praised in the prayers. It was meaningful and beautiful also because it means this: All of you should be allowed to gather together with me here without assembling now under our signs of faith, under the cross, or — this would have been even more unsuitable — we then take the crucifix down from the wall so that no vexation arises. St. Peter’s Basilica was very beautiful to behold in the background, but they were not gathered in a room but under the open sky. And this gathering out in the open had yet another beautiful dimension which Pope Francis pointed out at the end. He said that we can break though the spiral of hate and violence only with one word, and this word is called brother. But I can recognise you as brother only when I look to heaven and recognise our common father.”
This meeting to pray for peace in this form took on an unprecedented newness. To what extent can it really achieve something? What was really good and new in it?
“One could bring to mind very beautifully what prayer is in general. I would like to call it inspiration; inspiration first of all, on a horizontal, worldly plane. Someone goes there in silence, with a readiness to listen; he allows himself to accept, as a gift, the texts of the other, and he is also receptive to their tones and in this way he receives inspiration for new thought. But inspiration is of course also understood in a more literal and spiritual sense: I confess, and I have noticed in the last few years, that without You, without Your Spirit, God, I can not achieve peace. I can only become a peacemaker to any extent at all with Your power, in Your Spirit; and for that reason, inspiration is prayer when in that place I open myself for Your Spirit, with whose power I can recognise You, God, as Father — and have the courage to no longer recognise you who are my fellow man, as enemy, but as a brother, together with whom I am creating a new world.”
Previous posts about Imamgate — The Arabic prayer at the Vatican, June 8 2014:
|2014||Jun||11||The Vatican and Islamic Prayer|
|12||What Did the Imam Really Say at the Vatican?|
|13||Who Edited the Tape?