Archive for May 4th, 2011

“I have prayed for the soul of Osama bin Laden. We have to pray for him just like we pray for the victims of Sept 11. It’s what Jesus teaches Christians,” Albert Vanhoye, 87, a French cardinal, told an Italian newspaper, Il Messaggero on Wednesday.

“Jesus obliges us to forgive our enemies. The ‘Our Father’ that we recite every day says that. “Does it not say ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’?” “It’s not possible to accept this prayer while holding on to rancour and cultivating hatred against our enemies,” said the cardinal, in response to the news that bin Laden had been killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan.

“We are all sinners and we all need Christ’s forgiveness,” he said. It would have been better for the Americans to have captured bin Laden alive so that he could be put on trial, he added.

Vanhoye, a Jesuit priest, was made a cardinal in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his scholarly work on the Bible.

The Vatican warned on Monday that no Christian should celebrate the death of the al Qaeda leader.

Read Full Post »

While I was pleasantly surprised at how many Christians maintained a somber attitude in the wake of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, there was still plenty of celebration. One Orthodox blog had a picture of a popping champagne cork, and various forms of this were widespread among Catholics online. And of course in the nation at large it was party time.

What, exactly, was being celebrated? Certainly the death of bin Laden did not make anyone safe from him personally; he most likely had himself not acted violently since he was killing Russians in Afghanistan in the 80s. Nor did his death mean that the threat of terrorism has diminished; indeed most people expect that plans for vengeance were immediately being hatched by his Al Quaeda allies.

Rather, the joy so many experienced seems to have been the simple one of vengeance. Indeed, the act of killing bin Laden seems more one of revenge than of justice. In spite of initial reports that there was armed resistance (and a woman used as a human shield), it turns out that Osama bin Laden was unarmed.  The woman was killed accidentally, caught in the crossfire  The government says that he somehow was still a threat and that the Navy Seals had to use deadly force. This is curious, and it seems if a similar thing had occurred in any American city- an unarmed suspect killed by police- there would be suspensions and investigations. Apparently the mission was to kill bin Laden, not bring him to trial.

I do not address pagans here, or those who, like Jews or Muslims, believe in vengeance. But for Christians, rejoicing in the death of a foe runs counter to the teachings of Our Saviour. He is utterly clear in his command: we are to love our enemies, to do good to those who harm us, to not return evil for evil.

Of course this runs counter to every human impulse. It is not natural.

But we are not called to be merely natural; we are called by baptism to participate in the Divine Nature, to be transformed, to rise into a whole new dimension. This is the whole point of the Incarnation and Redemption.

Of course this does not mean that we are not to be merciful to those who want to return evil for evil, who want to kill those who do them harm. Anyone who has ever tried to love an enemy knows how difficult that is.  But it is not a suggestion. It is a command.

For a Christian to ignore this and to join in the vengeful glee is to deny Christ. We may love our beautiful choir, or our sublime liturgy, or our enthusiastic praise meetings, or our intellectually stimulating sermons, or whatever it is that our corner of the Church values, but if we do not attempt to love our enemy we are not disciples of Jesus Christ.

Read Full Post »