It has been confirmed by the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on behalf of the fifteen British sailors and marines taken captive by Iran. Writing this letter to Iran's Muslim leader was a very bold move on the part of the world's leading Catholic.
Evil incarnate is the way the Muslim world views the Catholic Pope. The Muslim world in general and Iran specifically have deemed the Pope the most dangerous leader on our planet. The Western world pales in comparison. The United States is a mere trifling annoyance. Israel is a speck on the Muslim hatred meter when compared to the Catholic Pope.
The Pope is a threat to Islam.
Unlike other Western leaders who, according to present day Muslim theological thought, might be misled by Western ideas and thoughts and whose followers are secular, the Pope is the leader of the behaviors and attitudes of nearly a billion and a half religious people across the globe. The Pope's people are fervent in their belief and their belief and their teachings are very different from Muslim belief and teachings. Muslim fear of and hatred for Catholicism is not new. In Muslim historical memory the horrors of the Crusades are still palpable. The indignity thrust upon Islam when Christians arrived at their doorstep in order to convert them and rule over them and dictate to them and control their holy sites still reverberates throughout the Muslim world.
Given all that Islamic emotional and historical baggage the question begs asking: Would a missive by the Pope have any impact on The Supreme Leader? The answer is, it doesn't matter. This letter was not about Muslim attitudes. This letter was not about the Catholic Church in general. This letter was specifically about the mindset and the insight of Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict wrote this letter not to defend the honor of the Church, after all, there are only 4.2 million Catholics in England as compared to about 24 million Protestants. Pope Benedict penned this letter to put forth and articulate a humanitarian objective. Note that the letter was sent not to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was sent directly to the Ayatollah Khamenei. Ahmadinejad might be the public presenter, the face of Iran to the outside world, but inside Iran, he is second fiddle. The Ayatollah is just as his title describes, the Ayatollah is absolute supreme leader. Whatever the Ayatollah wants, happens. Whatever the Ayatollah decrees, is implemented. As much policy freedom as we are now seeing from Ahmadinejad, his personal survival depends on doing just as he is told.
This Pope understands Iran. This Pope understands the dangers of Islam. This Pope knows radical Islam to be one of the greatest threats to Europe Catholicism and to the Western World. This Pope knows that a cultural and religious battle pitting Islam on one side and the rest of the world on the other is brewing.
This Pope understands that at stake is the world as we know it. The Ayatollah Khamenei knows this, too.
The Ayatollah Khamenei is determined to be at the forefront of the world's conversion to his brand of Islam. The Ayatollah Khamenei knows that the only leader who has a chance at stopping the wave Muslim influence around the world is the Pope. The Ayatollah Khamenei is planning a reverse Crusades.
Both leaders are reading the numbers. Khamenei represents a population of seventy to seventy-five million Iranian believers and followers. He dreams of representing the entire Muslim world, 1.5 billion Muslims strong. He knows that his chances of actually leading the Muslim world are small now, he understands that the masses are so involved in their daily survival that they are not psyched for a massive religious conflict. But he is laying the foundation.
Laying the foundation includes Iran's Holocaust denial. It includes Iran's resistance to play by the rules on matters of nuclear development. And laying the foundation is why the British sailors and marines were captured. And laying the foundation is why they were later released. The Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei was paid his due respect by the great Great Britain. He received the apology he craved, the apology he felt he deserves, the apology that was heard around the Muslim world.
The actions of the Ayatollah Khamenei are calculated by their ability to showcase Iran's honor. Khamenei's ploys, his actions, his decisions, even his bluster are calculated to showcase Iran's place of honor among Muslim nations. It is the eyes of his fellow Muslims that he is watching, it is the hearts of Islam that he is seeking.
Pope Benedict XVI put aside his bigger battle to try to solve the little issue. The message that the Pope put forth to the supreme leader of Iran was simple: if you are really interested in the message of God, if you are really interested in relieving pain and suffering, you will release your captives.
This time, the Pope called the Ayatollah's bluff.
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