It's hit the newswires and blogs that the Pope's assistant, Fr. Georg Gaenswein, recently warned of the "Islamization of the West" in an interview with Peter Seewald in a German newpaper. Great photos from the newspaper here. Gerard Augustinius of The Cafeteria is Closed blog, translated the entire interview here. Fascinating stuff, this is really an insider's perspective. Some excerpts:
PS: You're probably the first Papal secretary in history that's also in the spotlight next to the Pontifex: People Magazine swoons over the "Sunnyboy in the cassock", the Swiss Weltwoche calls you the "most handsome man in a soutane". Donatella Versace dedicated a fashion line to you. Does this image as a "ladykiller" (i.e. someone who looks like one) bother you ?
MG: It didn't make me blush, but it irritated me a bit. It doesn't hurt and it was flattering, and it's no sin. I'd never been confronted like this with my "shell". Then I noticed that it was largely an expression of sympathy - a bonus, not a malus; I can handle that well. But, I don't want that people don't just look at me but also acknowledge the substance.
PS: Nobody thought that after a "millennium Pope" like Karol Wojtyla a successor could be successful this quickly. Now, everything has changed. Not only that Benedict XVI. draws twice as many people. That his books are printed by the millions. Pope Ratzinger is viewed as one of the most important thinkers of our time. And, as opposed to his predecessor, he's rarely criticized. What does he have that others don't ?
MG: With being Pope there comes a greater accessibility, a greater sphere of influence and a greater power of assertion. Someone very familiar with the goings-on in Rome said during the Bavaria trip last fall, "John Paul II opened the hearts of the people. Benedict XVI fills them." There is a lot of truth in that. The Pope reaches the hearts of the people, he speaks to them, but he doesn't speak of himself, he speaks of Jesus Christ, of God, and that in a descriptive, understandable and convincing manner. That is what people are looking for. Benedict XVI gives them spiritual nourishment.
On the Pope's Regensberg speech and the dangers to the West of Islamization:
PS: He is basically a shy man. But at the same time he's always had something "inconvient" about him, a resistance against everything that's too common, against stupidity.
MG: That the Holy Father isn't an impetuous but a more reserved person is plain to see for everyone.
PS: The Pope writes all important texts himself, including the speech in Regensburg with the controversial quote from a historical book on a dispute with Muslims. Why did nobody edit the text?
MG: I find the Regensburg speech, as it was given, to be prophetic.
PS: Was the shock great when the angry attacks from the Islamic world became known ?
MG: We only heard of the crude reactions after we'd gotten back to Rome from Bavaria. It was a big surprise, to the Pope as well. The mighty trouble had started due to newspaper reports which had taken one quote out of context and presented it as the Pope's personal opinion.
PS: In Islam, where it is in charge of state and society, human rights are being constantly violated. ("kicked with feet") The persecution of Christians has increased drastically. The President of Iran announced again that the countdown to the destruction of Israel had begun. Is the condept of a real dialog with Islam not a bit too naive?
MG: The attempts at Islamization of the West cannot be put aside. The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected to it must not be ignored for reasons of a wrongly understood respect. The Catholic sides sees it very clearly and talks about it. Especially the Regensburg speech should counter a certain naivete ("blue-eyedness"). One thing has to be pointed out - there is no Islam as such, no voice that ties all Muslims together and leads them. There are many different currents, often at war with each other, up to extremists that claim the Koran for their actions and go to work with guns. On an institutional level, he Holy See tries to make contacts and lead dialogs via the Papal Council for Interreligious Dialog.