Friday, November 09, 2007

Pope meets Darth Vader

Ok, he didn't really meet with Darth Vader but King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia/Groucho Marx lookalike contest winner.

If you didn't get the Darth Vader bit, perhaps you can watch this:

This would not be King Abdullah's first meeting with the head of the Christian church as he had met Queen Elizabeth, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England before coming to Rome.

King Abdullah is also titled Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (meaning the mosques in Mecca and Medina) so it was interesting watching him meet with His Holiness, the earthly leader of the Christian Church.

Here's the AP report.

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI lauded the contributions of Christians in Saudi Arabia — a kingdom that embraces a strict version of Islam, restricts worship by other faiths and bans Bibles and crucifixes — in the first meeting ever Tuesday between a pope and reigning Saudi king.

Benedict and the Vatican's No. 2 official raised their concerns during separate meetings with King Abdullah, the protector of Islam's holiest sites.

The Vatican counts 890,000 Catholics, mainly guest workers from the Philippines, among the estimated 1.5 million Christians in Saudi Arabia. Christians are barred from opening churches in the desert kingdom where Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, are located.[But this doesn't stop Muslims from opening mosques everywhere, even in Rome. They even have the gall to ask to worship in the Cathedral of Cordoba with the flimsy excuse that it was once a mosque during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula. It's time some reciprocity is shown. It would seem they want equal rights when they're the minority but deny the same rights to other when they're the majority and in power.]

"The Vatican authorities expressed their hope for the prosperity of all the inhabitants of the country, and mention was made of the positive and industrious presence of Christians," said the Vatican communique on the meetings, referring in diplomatic language to the religious plight of non-Muslims in the kingdom.

Benedict greeted the king warmly, grasping both his hands before heading into 30 minutes of private talks in his library.

At the end of the meeting, Abdullah presented Benedict with a traditional Middle Eastern gift — a golden sword studded with jewels — and a gold and silver statue of a palm tree and a man riding a camel. The pope admired the statue but merely touched the sword. [The Saudi Flag is adorned with a Sword, the Sword of Islam. I think the King should be quite handy with it, if you get what I mean. Here's Wikipedia's explanation of the Arabic words:

The script on the flag is written in the Thuluth script. It is the shahada or Islamic declaration of faith:

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
la ilaha ill allah muhammadun rasul allah
"There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger"]

Look what I got you!

Holy Crap! Is that the real sword of Islam?

He gave Abdullah a 16th century print and a gold medal of his pontificate.

Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom requires all Saudi citizens to be Muslims. Only Muslims can visit the cities of Mecca and Medina.

Under the authoritarian rule of the royal family, the kingdom enforces Sharia, or Islamic law. It follows a severe interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism that rejects the possibility of diplomatic relations with a Christian entity. This interpretation would prohibit a Vatican embassy in Saudi Arabia on the grounds it is equivalent to raising the cross inside Islam's holiest places.

The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with 176 states and institutions, including many in the Islamic world. Before the king's meeting with the pope, a Saudi official said the Vatican has not asked to have a diplomatic mission in the kingdom or to have diplomatic relations.

And a Vatican official said Saudi Arabia has never asked for such a relationship. The official, who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Saudi Arabia is effectively a theocratic state but that the Vatican believes it must speak out for the rights of believers.

It is forbidden to practice Christianity publicly inside Saudi Arabia, and it is illegal to bring symbols from religions other than Islam into the country. Bibles and crosses are confiscated at the border.

Now, about those persecuted Christians in your country...

Some Christian worship services are held secretly, but the government has been known to crack down on them, or deport Filipino workers if they hold even private services.

The Vatican has said it wants to pursue a dialogue with moderate Muslims after the pope angered the Muslim world in 2006 with a speech linking Islam to violence.

He later said he was misunderstood and regretted offending Muslims. He has since met a number of Islamic leaders and a year ago visited predominantly Muslim Turkey.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said the Vatican hoped the meeting with the Saudi king would produce a "sincere" dialogue on Christian worship in the country.

The Vatican said the talks were "warm" and allowed a wide discussion on the need for inter-religious and intercultural dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews "for the promotion of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values, especially in support of the family," a statement said.

Benedict has said he wants to reach out to all countries that still do not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Those countries include Saudi Arabia and China.

Abdullah had visited the Vatican twice before, as crown prince and deputy prime minister.

Who knows, one day the King might see the Light and come to stand under the banner of the Risen Christ in truth. Deo volente.


Archistrategos said...

My uncle used to work in Saudi Arabia as a pharmacist before, and he testifies to the absolutist sway of Wahhabist Islam there. Even so much as the mention of the word Christ, let alone the name of Our Lord, was viewed with heavy suspicion, and he even had some close calls with the religious authorities there. The Christians there really need our prayers; I know many Filipino families who have relatives who work in Saudi, and it is just heartbreaking to know that many of them can't even manage to greet each other 'Merry Christmas'. Truly a sad state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

The Saudi monarch appears to you like the Star Wars villain? I wasn’t aware that Catholicism allows its followers to heap insult upon a fellow human. Not the kind of attitude the Holy Father would approve now, would he? Shame on you, my son.

Andrew said...

Worshipful Father. If you had watched the video, you would have understood the meaning I was trying to convey as I had said here: "If you didn't get the Darth Vader bit, perhaps you can watch this" in reference to the embedded video.

Now, firstly, the appellation does not come from me, but rather from the Guards band which played Lord Vader's theme during the King's visit to Buckingham. Watch the video to understand it further.

Secondly, I do not think the appellation would equal 'heaping insult'. Darth Vader, though he crossed over to the Dark Side was later redeemed when he saw the light and through an unselfish self sacrificial act, ended the evil Emperor Palpatine and was again admitted to the circle of the Light with Obi Wan and Yoda. If anything, Darth Vader stands as a symbol that no one is beyond redemption, no matter how evil they seem and how hopeless the task may be. I find no shame in that.

Thirdly, in my opinion, which is borne out of incontrovertible evidence as well as anecdotal testimony as provided by my good friend Arch here, this King does indeed preside over an evil empire which spreads the evil of Wahhabi Islam all over the world. This brand of poison is the fuel of the numerous suicide attacks and is propagated using Saudi oil wealth to take root in the madrassah's of Afghanistan and Pakistan and has even now seeped into Muslim jurisprudence and thought in South East Asia which once professed a much more tolerant brand of Islam. I do not apologize for that.

And another thing. It's very interesting for an Englishman with such a distinguished name to hail from Taiping, Perak and who found my blog from the Malaysian version of Google. My curiosity is piqued. Perhaps, if you have an email account, some further discussions on the merits of Wahhabism can be further discussed.

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kivaa said...

i guess people only see what they want to see.

if you only have bad images in your minds about anything at all (and in this case Islam), all of those bad things will come before you indeed.

I hope someday you will also see the light, and to truly feel in your heart of what is the truth.