In his new book on Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken forcefully against religiously motivated violence, saying it is a “favorite instrument of the Antichrist” that serves “not humanity, but inhumanity.”
“The cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence,” he writes in the second volume of his book on Jesus of Nazareth, “are only too evident to us all.” Rather than building up the kingdom of God, he says “it is a favorite instrument of the Antichrist, however idealistic its religious motivation may be. It serves, not humanity, but inhumanity.”
Benedict XVI's words follow those he said at a Vatican synod last fall, in which he condemned those fighting in the name of God as serving a false god which must ultimately fall.
The Pope's new book is entitled “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week — From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection,” an analysis of Jesus' last days. It was published worldwide in seven languages on March 10.
A scholarly account of the momentous events leading up to Easter, the Pope has wanted to convey in this book “the real Jesus” who, he insists, was not a political revolutionary, nor a mere moralist, but the son of God who changed history and saved mankind based on the power of love.
The Pope stresses Jesus was not a zealot, or a fanatic. “Violent revolution, killing others in God’s name, was not his way,” he writes. “His 'zeal' for the kingdom of God took quite a different form.”
The nine-chapter book charts Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, when his followers proclaimed him as the Messiah. It takes the reader through Jesus' cleansing of the temple, an action that attracted enemies among the temple authorities, and it concludes with the Last Supper, Jesus' trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.
As well as explaining how Jesus was not a political agitator, the book shows how Jesus used the nonviolent power of love rather than the usual channels of power in fulfilling his mission. And the Pope draws on a broad base of research to argue that Jesus truly lived on the earth, and the resurrection really took place.
Some media reports have focused on one excerpted passage in the book in which Benedict says no basis in Scripture for the accusation that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death. This is not an innovation of Catholic Church teaching; it has existed since 1965 and has long been taken for granted by most Catholics. But it is the first time that a pontiff has made such a categorical statement.
“Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week” has already been warmly praised by many Church leaders and scholars. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a senior Vatican official who presided over the book's Vatican launch, said the Pope's new work could herald a new theological era for the Church, and that through the book, the Pope is helping others to better come to know Jesus.
The cardinal said he was impressed that the Pope had found the time to write it when the Church was going through some "painful experiences" — an oblique reference to the clerical sex abuse cases of recent years.
Referring to the Gospel passage in which Peter reaches out to Jesus to save him from drowning, the cardinal said: “It is as if, in the middle of the waves that shake the boat of the Church, Peter has once again grabbed the hand of the Lord who comes to meet us on the water, to save us.” The Pope, he added, “holds the hand of Jesus on the stormy waves, and takes us along with the other hand.”
The Canadian cardinal also said he saw the book as a “great call” for dialogue, not only between Christians but members of other religions, too.
Professor Scott Hahn, who teaches theology and scripture at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, praised the work for its depth and clarity. He said that although scholarly, it is not a difficult read as long as it is read slowly and patiently. Its “breakthrough,” he tells Newsmax, is that it will better equip Catholics to explain the true meaning of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Mark Brumley, CEO of Ignatius Press, the book's American publishers, said he felt this volume would be easier to read as it covers the compelling events of Jesus' last week on the earth. He recommended it as a “good Lenten read.”
This 384-page book is part of a series the Pope has wanted to write since the 1950s. He started writing it in 2003, before he was elected Pope, and hoped to finish it in retirement. He says he has spent almost all his free time writing its contents — all put down on paper by longhand and without a computer.
Last summer the Vatican revealed Benedict had already started the third volume, which will focus on Jesus' infancy.
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