A resignation of Pope Benedict have ignite my curiosity about Catholic Churches.
Though the Vatican is a famous icon for Christianity, its name existed long before the advent of the religion. The name was first given to one of the hills on the side of the Tiber River, which is opposite to the Seven Hills of Rome.
The city of the Vatican is a sovereign city-state located entirely within the boundaries of Rome. It is believed to be situated on the spot where St. Peter, a prominent figure in the history of Christianity, was martyred and buried around 2000 years ago. In 324 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine, built the first papal church called the Constantinian Basilica over St. Peter’s tomb.
Till recently, St. Peter’s was the largest church that was ever built and is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Christendom. The Vatican City expands over around 0.44 square kilometers and with a population of around 800 people, which makes it the smallest independent country in the world.
The Vatican territory includes important sites, such as St. Peter’s Square built between 1656 and 1667, the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, which is very famous for its architecture that resembles King Solomon’s Temple in the Old Testament and was decorated by talented renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael.
The “Voluntary Prisoner”
The Vatican City, which is the home of the Roman Catholic Church, is the only city that survived from the Papal States, which had been ruled for over a thousand years by religious papacy. The idea behind papal independence was to assure the complete freedom of the pope away from Roman princes and emperors.
Pope who is the bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is considered for Catholics as St. Peter’s successor. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ named Peter as the “shepherd” or the “rock” of the church. Though Peter was never named a pope as the title came into existence much later, for Catholics he is considered to be the “first pope.” The analogy comes from the fact that the pope is the head of bishops as was Peter the head of apostles.
The pope had territorial control over some states in central Italy between the years 756 and 1870, and the Vatican was the capital of the Papal States. During the fights for the unification of Italy from 1860 to 1870, Italy gained back a lot of the papal territories, and Rome was established as the national capital of Italy. When the Italian armies were at the gate of Rome on the morning of September 20, 1870, Pope Pius IX was facing a hard choice. He ordered his soldiers neither to fight nor to resist the Italian forces as he realized that it was a lost war, and he wanted to avoid bloodshed.
Pope Pius IX did not want to surrender the city before it was attacked, as he was afraid that the world would recognize this act as a voluntary act of renunciation of his rights. He wanted to make it clear that he was forced to give up his temporal power, and that his sovereignty was breached by force.
In 1871, a law was issued to confine the territories of the papacy to only include the Vatican, the Lateran Palace, and the villa of Castel Gandolfo on the shore of Lake Albano. The government also granted the Pontiff a handsome amount of money as compensation for the lost revenue over seized territories. Though Pope Pius IX was adamant on revoking the law and constantly refused to abide by it, the Italian government thought they were extremely generous toward “Italy’s distinguished guests.” Pope Pius IX refused to accept the government’s grant of money, and declared that this agreement was unilateral and did not represent the consensus of the two parties, so it should be considered null and void. He maintained his position of refusing to recognize the lawful and the rightful possession of Rome by the Italian government and refused to set foot on the soil of the seized territory, as this would mean that he accepted the Italian sovereignty.
Therefore, the pope declared himself as a “voluntary prisoner” in his Vatican Palace, yet he continued his duties and temporal power in a symbolic way.
Mussolini & the “Roman Question”
One of the proposals that were offered to Pope Benedict XV to solve the heated situation was to grant the pope full and unrestricted sovereignty over the Vatican, but the pope said that the Vatican is a palace not a territory. For the papal palace, it seemed absurd to grant the pope full sovereignty, yet he cannot exercise it anywhere.
Long before Mussolini came to power as the head of the Fascist Party, he used to speak publicly about the importance of restoring the relationship with the Catholic Church. He asserted in Parliament that it is absurd for Italy to be in enmity with a church that 95 percent of its citizens were regarded as divinely authorized.
So, right after he seized power, Mussolini did not hesitate to state at every occasion how important the Papal Church is, and how appreciative he is to the role that religion plays in the national life. His determination to restore good relations with the pope did not stop at the level of positive speeches and words of appreciation. He actually walked the talk by restoring the crucifix in the classrooms, which was long removed by previous governments. Also, he made it mandatory in the curriculum in public schools to study religion after it was only supplementary. He also increased the allowance and the stipend paid by government to the parish priests.
While Mussolini promised not to interfere with the religious practices of other cults or religions, he declared and affirmed Catholicism to be the national faith of Italy.
Though Mussolini showed signs of good faith to reach some sort of reconciliation with the Holy See, the road was not paved, and it was not an easy ride. The greatest difficulty that faced the new Fascist government was the question of the position of the Vatican within the new Italian state and the division of authority.
It is well-known that both the Fascist government and the Vatican are at opposite poles. The pope stated numerously his dissatisfaction with the Fascist ideology of monopolizing the individuals by making their whole existence for the benefit of the state. The Church believes on the other hand that the individual exists for the glory of God.
For the next three years, Mussolini was negotiating secretly with the Vatican, and then he announced that there is an informal understanding that was reached between the state and the Vatican on points of dispute. Mussolini used to call the Vatican situation as the “Roman Question.”
The Missions of the Holy See
The Holy See was the name given to the government of the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy See diplomatic history began long before its independence. Since the medieval times, the Episcopal Church of Rome is considered to be an independent sovereign entity. Even when Italy took most of the Papal States in 1870, the Holy See maintained sending and receiving diplomatic missions.
In 1929, a political treaty was signed between the Holy See and Italy, according to which full sovereignty was granted to the Holy See in the Vatican City.
The Italian government had its own ulterior motives when it decided to solve the Roman question once and for all. Millions of Catholics around the globe will not be educated anymore by their priests that Italy is a “despoiler of the church.”
Missionary schools in the Near East might place extra importance on teaching Italian as an important language along with its history and literature. More importantly as some historians state, the political benefits of being the protector of Christianity in places like Syria and Palestine, which is a political advantage that France enjoyed, and now Italy can join in as well. Though the pope’s liberty and independence are confined to such small piece of land in the Vatican, for the Catholics, his spiritual leadership in the Catholic World is universal with no boundaries set to confine it.
I am going to delete my provocative post related to Christianity which I write to counter one stupid Evangelist who think she is too good and know everything about my religion. That time, I was too new with blog, and I still don’t expect to have 3 years old blog and still working. Thanks to “those Evangelist” and “Islamophobia freak”.
Actually, the initial intention of this blog is to write about business, management, engineering, local politic which related to my work. There was no so such intention to make my blog to be theological blog.
Later, the blog transform to “Counter-Evangelist project”. For most one year and half, 2011-2012, I follow up with many Christian blog, Evangelist, Atheist, Agnostic, etc. I buy Bible, I read Bible, I learn their history, I subscribe to a good Christian/Atheist blog to understand how they think. I learn their scholar’s view.
In middle 2012, after I learn about their faith, I reluctant to counter them anymore as I use to be. How I going to counter a people who doesn’t understand or even analysis their own Bible. It make myself a bully to a weak people. Some of them are mannerly good, some are very arrogant, but they seem very confident with their faith. This another issue that I still wonder about Christianity, “faith without understanding”.
Most of Christian blog always talk about few main categories – God and Jesus, sin, crucifixion, 2nd coming, etc . Some how, I feel boring reading a same continuous idea which can not make as lesson learn. Many faithful Christian are actually supporting secularism and liberalism. I don’t know why, but I going to investigate this point.
Atheist blog are too focus on countering God (based on Christianity understanding). This people are clever, but they use their wisdom wrongly and the are too aggressive. Of course, they will denied it, but it quite a waste of time countering them.
I don’t want to follow up with Islamophobia blog anymore, because it built up my heart pressure and I believe it no more a threat to Islam. Their understanding are quite shallow which easily counter if we understand Islamic theology.
Our experience in countering secularism is well known. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and many more are initially secular country. Many other nation will follow up in less than next 5 years. Less than 100 years after Ottoman fall down, we revive again, it was a great success which no other faith, religion, or nation can revive this fast.
Our history show that we are very persistent in defending our faith. History of Mongol, India, China, Middle East, Europe have recorded how we change the social, economy to better nation. It nothing impossible within Islam.
No need to play dirty
My advise to Muslim friend, based on my experience, we do not require to play dirty in defend our faith. Play smart and use your brain wisely, people will support you. If they keep provoke us, they going to pay for that in future. They going to be label “Intolerant religion” by their own people. I repeat by their own people. Our local people Christian/ non-Muslim know how we works, so no need to worry. Even, we may have some controversy with our local, it always being settle before it become huge.
Just do our work, ignore them. Truth always prevail evil. So, keep remembering that. Propagate good deeds and wait for better tomorrow.
Anyone who still want to read my deleted post, please email me so I can email to you.
Where can one find schools run by a Muslim organisation, the majority of whose students are non-Muslims?
Christian-Muslim relations in Indonesia are too often associated with conflict, disharmony and hostility, thus, it might be surprising for many to learn that such schools exist in different parts of Indonesia.
In some Christian Indonesian enclaves, Muhammadiyah (literally the followers of the Prophet Muhammad), one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisations, have established a number of schools where, in a few cases, 50 to 75 per cent of students are Christian.
This interesting phenomenon is found on some islands of Indonesia, for instance in the predominantly Catholic town of Ende on the island of Flores in the south-eastern part of Indonesia, and the predominantly Protestant town of Serui on the smaller island of Yapen in the eastern part of the country.
This point is highlighted by Dr Abdul Mu‘ti, senior lecturer at Walisongo State Institute for Islamic Studies in Semarang, Central Java, who conducted field work in some of these areas. His findings were presented recently at the International Research Conference on Muhammadiyah held recently in the University of Muhammadiyah in Malang, East Java.
Christian parents in fact, frequently make the decision to send their children to Muhammadiyah schools because of the high quality education and low cost, as well as the fact that the schools provide Christian religious education. They choose to provide the opportunity for their children to interact with Muslims, despite the availability of nearby Christian schools, for example in the case of Ende.
This implies that these Christian communities trust such institutions. They are unconcerned that learning in a Muslim school would pose a threat to their children’s religious beliefs. In fact, they do not see the religious difference as a problem and even highlight similarities among religions.
“Islam and Catholicism have many things in common. Both seek the good in people,” said a devout Catholic parent in Ende. Some parents see interfaith interaction, as well as the Islamic characteristics of the school, as something positive that state-run or other private schools do not offer.
Both the Muhammadiyah Senior High School in Ende and the Muhammadiyah Junior High School in Serui provide Christian students with a Christian religious education course taught by a Christian teacher. Indeed, in the Ende school, the course has been offered since 1971, long before the Indonesian law requiring such a class was issued in 2003.
In both schools, not only can one find Christian instructors teaching Christian religious education classes, but also Christian instructors teaching other subjects to Christian and Muslim students alike. These teachers find the experience of working in Muslim schools helps them better understand Islam and Muslims, a view shared by most of the students.
As Mu’ti’s survey shows, both Christian and Muslim students consider the experience in a multi-faith environment is remarkably helpful for building religious harmony.
Instead of being a source of religious tensions, the existence of schools run by Muslim organisations like Muhammadiyah has proven to bridge different religious communities, functioning as a safe space for interfaith encounters.
With young people growing in an environment characterised by peaceful religious cohabitation in Muslim-run schools in Indonesia’s Christian enclaves and elsewhere, one can hope for a more tolerant, inclusive, peaceful world – a better place to live for all.
Izza Rohman is a lecturer at UHAMKA University’s School of Education in Jakarta and a Tangsel-based translator.
On December 13, 2009, during the Worldview of Islam Seminar organized by the Assembly of Muslim Intellectuals or Himpunan Keilmuan Muda (HAKIM), there was a question being posted to Professor Al-Attas regarding the polemical usage of the word “Allah” by the non-Muslims.
Below is the transcript of his brief-but-yet-concise enlightening remarks. As a word of caution, though, one must not only rely on this brief transcript alone to understand the whole spectrum of Prof. Al-Attas’ view about this theological matter. Further thorough elucidation of his thought can be found in numerous works of this great Muslim scholar of this age, such as Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, Islam and Secularism, Islam dalam Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu and A Commentary on Hujjat al-Siddiq of Nur al-Din al-Raniri.
Picture : Allah in Arabic (circled) from Arabic’s Bible
Question: The using of kalimah “Allah” by other people in this country
Answers by Prof. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas:
Well I have been talking about this long time ago. I remember about this in ISTAC, when we first established ourselves (late 80’s and early 90’s), I think the Arcbishop of Penang was asking this question. And I have answered that.
And then we had a meeting with the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and about all the representatives of Christianity, including the ministers, we had a meeting at ISTAC.
And I said, “Why you want to use the word ‘Allah’ for yourself?”
They said “we going to pray in Bahasa Malaysia”
That’s the way they put it. So my answers to them, “Why you have to change praying into Bahasa Malaysia. You have been praying in English all the time. Why suddenly change into Bahasa Malaysia?”
Ok, so they said they want to change so that it more patriotic. Then in that case I’m saying that “why don’t you use Tuhan while praying in Bahasa Malaysia? Because you are talking about God isn’t it?…God is not just a name…”Allah” is a name of this Being whom you called God… and in fact a Being whom even higher than what you called to be God”
And then I said, “ …and “Allah” is not from Bahasa Malaysia. It is not a national language. It belongs to the language of Muslim all over the world. Therefore your argument using this for the word “Allah” does not fit into your idea of God. Because “Allah” does not have a son, It is not one of three (Trinity), that is why out of respect to Allah we can’t allow you to use this.“
But when we Muslim, when we write in English we say God, or when we talk to people we say God but we mean “Allah”…but they cannot say when they speak about God it means “Allah” as they don’t mean it.
So in this particular respect, we have to be clear about this, not was-was (hesitate)…whomever responsible in our governing, they have to be clear about this and to explain to others.
We agree you want to use God, then use Tuhan as we also use that…but we understand in the Malay language that Tuhan is not a translation of Allah..that is why we say “tiada Tuhan melainkan Allah” not “tiada Tuhan melainkan Tuhan”. We don’t say “there is not God but God”..at least the ulama’ among the Muslim Malays, we understand what is the meaning of that (word “Allah”).
So “Allah” cannot be translated as no language has translated Allah. The Arabs themselves they only use that after Islam..although the word existed (before)..the Christians Arab they also did not use Allah (in theological, epistemological and ontological sense in the same manner as the Muslim)..if they say that it is just a language..they talking about language..because they say “Allah” like the Muslim when they (melatah)…
So it appears they want to do that in order to confuse the Muslim into thinking that all the same..that is why I say one of the problems about religion is the nature of God..about who Allah is..that is why in Arkanul Iman (The Pillars of Faith), the first thing is “amana billah”.
“Who is this Allah?” and that need to be explain at higher institution in a proper way…
So we have answer the question. It is not proper to allow them using this, since they asking us and there is no point bringing this to court since this is not a matter of court to decide it whether they have the freedom to use it or not. It is up to the Muslims.
But then if they used it and said “in Indonesia they have use it, why can’t we?”…but it is because of the Muslims..if Muslims don’t care they will go on and use it..and in Indonesia they are using not only that, other things they even call it “choir” as “selawat”. Choir is not a “selawat”, as “selawat” is for Prophet..it’s not singing hymn..
And they also talk about..in Indonesia they are also confuse..Muslims..that is why this thing happen. Sometimes the language when you come across English words like “Prophet of Doom” in Indonesia they said “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet). How can there be “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet)? What is meant by the “Prophet of Doom” is…even the word Prophet in English does not mean “Nabi” only…it means “yang meramalkan malapetaka” (the one who foreseen disaster)..that what it means…so the “Prophet of Doom” means “yang meramalkan malapetaka” (the one who foreseen disaster), not “Nabi celaka” (doomed prophet).
They (the Muslims in Indonesia) seem not to bother about this. What we can say is that ultimately well they say “God is not Allah”…well if you want to use the word God, we are saying we also use the word God, we refer to Allah as we know and we are not saying that your God ultimately will not refer to Allah. You can’t run away from Allah. You can only escape Him and so in the Qur’an (surah An-Naas) says: “Qul aAAoothu birabbi annas, Maliki annas, Ilahi annas”. He (Allah) is saying “ I am the real Ilah (God) of naas (mankind)”, although mankind (non-Muslim) does not interpret it that way.
If that is the case, that shows how persistent were the Christians in finding the loopholes be it in legal or cultural dimension to further their cause that might create confusion to the Muslim’s polity if not being mitigated by the governing authority of this land.
As I iterated before, by having confused so-called Muslim authorities which normally appear in the silhouette of Salafism/Wahabbism as well the Modernist/Reformist (actually they are just the two sides of the same coin), the “public sphere” itself has been flooded with confused views which do no good to the Muslim’s cause in defending their creed from blasphemy.
It is best to leave this matter to the Muslim scholars who have been trained as Theologians (mutakallimun), that possessed in depth understanding on Islamic Theology, Islamic and Western Philosophy as well knowledge about the Western Civilization (which Christianity is one of the mosaic part of the whole picture) to deal with this issue succinctly.
Most of them that I have known are the young protege of Muslim scholars who being trained by Prof. Al-Attas himself during his days in the “original” ISTAC like Prof. Wan Mohd. Nor Wan Daud (ATMA-UKM), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zainiy Uthman (IIUM),Prof. Alparslan Acikgenc (Fatih University), Dr. Mustafa Ceric (Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Hezergovina) , Dr. Zaidi Ismail (IKIM), Dr. Sani Badron (IKIM), Dr. Wan Azhar (IKIM), Dr. Farid Shahran (former VP of ABIM, IIUM) Dr. Wan Suhaimi Wan Abdullah (UM), Dr. Azizan Sabjan (USM), Dr. Adi Setia (IIUM ) Ustaz Asham Ahmad (IKIM), Ustaz Nik Roskiman (IKIM) while Prof. Al-Attas’ students from Indonesia who have fought closely in this issue the likes of Dr. Syamsuddin Arif, Dr. Hamid Fahmy Zarkasyi, Dr. Adian Husaini, Dr. Khalif Muammar, Ustaz Adnin Armas, Dr. Ugi Suharto and many others. Do google their name for further references.