March 19, 2009

Ratzinger: a politically dumb pope

Most of the people I've talked to agree that John Paul II was a very charismatic Pope. He did a very respectable job not only as a spiritual leader but also as a diplomat. He improved relations with other religions and travelled the world, while he understood the importance his figure had and took advantage of it. But Mr. Ratzinger, his successor, has been very different. I haven't heard of many people who feel admiration or devotion towards him. Some of the major controversies he has generated include offending the Muslims in a lecture he gave in 2006 by quoting a text which directly insults Prophet Muhammad. He also said in a visit to Brazil that the proclamation of Christianity in the Americas was not an imposition of a foreign culture and that the natives had been silently longing for the Christian faith. Those comments show his lack of diplomatic intelligence, which doesn't stop there. He also lifted the excommunication to Richard Williamson, a bishop who is a Holocaust denier who said in an interview with the Swedish TV that he believes that no Jews were executed in gas chambers, and that only around 200,000 and not 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. According to the Vatican, Ratzinger was not informed about Williamson's statements. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor regreted the decision to lift Williamson's excommunication and the German media said the "honeymoon" between the Germans and their Pope was over.

But this week he made the most idiotic mistake, one that can have very serious consequences. In a visit to Cameroon, he declared that "HIV/Aids can't be overcome with the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem". One must be extremly stupid to make such a declaration in a continent which has more than 60% of the infected population in the world, with more than 24.5 million people infected just in Sub-Saharan Africa. He can defend his views, but not while threatening the public health in such a way. Now the NGOs and other aid agencies working in Africa must have to do a great job in order to make people understand the importance of the use of condoms in the region with the highest HIV/Aids infection rate.

I'm sure we won't have to wait long before Benedict XVI is again on the headlines. What will he say/do now?