Friday, July 29, 2005

Should Protestants Be Invited on the Hajj Too?

After researching Cologne, Germany for an article last summer, I wished I could go to this year's World Youth Day. Not only is it the last year I'll be the right age, but Cologne would be a particularly intriguing destination after my summer 2003 wanderings. Of course, bar exams and lack of wealth pretty much put a stop to that idea.

Today's observation comes from a Der Spiegel article criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for not having enough "dialogue" with other religions. The article was based on some exceptionally close readings of some of his statements that some seem to interpret as anti-Semitic because they are not expressly pro-Israel. That issue aside, the closing remark was most odd:
Even his dealings with Germany's Protestant Church so far have been an affront. Indeed, at first Protestants weren't even invited to World Youth Day -- scheduled to take place in Cologne in August. It was only after the Protestants publicly expressed their astonishment that the Vatican managed to sheepishly issue the invitation.
A Protestant friend of mine expressed her own astonishment that Protestants would even want to attend this large Catholic event (expected to draw as many as a million participants). While the World Youth Day website doesn't make this clear, opting for more "universal" language, World Youth Day is an essentially "Catholic" event (yes, "catholic" means "universal," but we're not getting into semantics today).

There is one shred of hyperbole in the title, WYD is nowhere near as important to Catholics as the Hajj is to Muslims - it is a voluntary gathering and not an obligation of the faithful. But it is still a pilgrimage and a week-long celebration of faith in which the Pope plays a central role. The Pope invites the youth, celebrates with them, and sends them out into the world at the close .

Some excerpts from a 2004 interview with Father Francis Kohn, a Pontifical Council Aide:

WYD is a Catholic event because the invitation is made by the Pope, but there is also an "inculturation," an influence on the local culture.

We have seen that WYD is a great pilgrimage in faith. Our task is to put young people in touch with Christ; to foster a personal encounter, and to provide the occasion for conversion and the rediscovery of the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist...

Catecheses, liturgies and cultural meetings of youth from all over the world are a unique opportunity to deepen the faith through different cultures. In WYD, young people discover other ways of living the faith and other ways of experiencing Christian culture.

He also noted that 2005 will actually be "the first time... that the Pope explicitly invites young people who are not baptized, who are far from the Church, to come to Cologne for WYD." So there we have it: In order to live up to his predecessor's standard, the Pope is expected to energetically invite Protestants to a Catholic event that his predecessor created two decades ago without ever inviting Protestants?

Now I don't necessarily mind Protestants going to WYD, but how much "openness" is it right for anyone to demand? Is this supposed to be the consolation prize for not getting a Protestant Pope? In another context, how many Republican delegates were invited to the Democratic National Convention?

Oh, and if anyone can tell me where I can get one of these without an 80 Euro minimum order, I'd greatly appreciate it:

Side Note:
The Cologne Cathedral (K├Âlner Dom) has tried in various ways to be labeled the world's largest cathedral - but being neither the world's tallest (that would be Ulm) or the world's largest (the Ivory Coast's Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro), they seem to have settled on "World's Largest Church Facade."

1 comment:

Lady Jane said...

Excellent post! It is ridiculous that people are whining about not being invited to someone else's party. I really doubt that any Protestants who turned up would be turned away.