16 - 09
In a speech in Holyrood, Edinburgh, Pope Benedict XV warned against “aggressive forms of secularism” and “atheist extremism”.
Concluding a passage on the Nazis, he said: “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the Twentieth Century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a reductive vision of the person and his destiny.”
The comments instantly triggered an angry response from secular groups, who took particular exception to a mention of the Nazis earlier in the speech.
“The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God,” said a spokesperson from the British Humanist Association.
The Pope’s decision to cite the absence of a belief in God within the creation of Nazism, was a point that was touched on by the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks in his Rosh Hashanah address last week.
Lord Sacks, when asked how God allowed suffering in the Holocaust, said: “I never saw God as someone that prevents us from acting freely.
“When people assemble in crowds and do terrible things, God is the protest against that crowd.”
Speaking this week, he said: “I would like to see a Judeo-Christian alliance to renew the moral vision of Europe on the basis of human dignity and equality. Without faith, we are left with moral relativism, and relativism is incapable of defending anything, including itself. Without faith Europe will lose, first, its soul, then its freedom.”
Lord Sacks, who received a special request from the Vatican to speak at a gathering at St Marys University College in Twickenham, will be joined by community figures including Three Faiths Forum co-founder Sir Sigmund Sternberg at the event on the second day of the pontiff’s four-day trip.
Relations between the Vatican and the Jewish community have been hit by a string of controversies during Benedict XVI’s five-year papacy, but Lord Sacks insisted: “Pope Benedict is committed to Vatican II which sets the Church on a path of friendship with and respect for Judaism and Jews.”Pope compares atheism with Nazism by James Marin