In good hands, and none are better than those moved by a journalist’s brain, a technically accurate quote can lie as successfully as a made-up one.
Hence the quote “John can make any shop girl…” is legally unimpeachable but ethically mendacious if the full sentence was “John can make any shop girl laugh.”
Now it’s the Pope’s turn to find himself at the receiving end of such sleight of hand. For His Holiness didn’t call Mahmoud Abbas ‘an angel of peace’, as is universally reported by every paper I’ve seen.
The Pope did use the phrase when talking to the Palestinian chieftain, but it was an expression of hope, not a statement of fact. This is what His Holiness actually said: “May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: May you be an angel of peace.”
Along with faith and charity, hope is of course a principal Christian virtue, going back to three martyred saints. Peace is also among important Christian desiderata. The Pope was thus speaking within the remit of his job, although, in our secular world, one may argue that vesting the hope for peace in Abbas betokens touching naivety.
After all, since 1961 he has been a member of Fatah, a patently terrorist organization, where he first earned his spurs by channeling the funds used to finance the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games.
Neither does Abbas’s record at the Palestinian Authority point at his inclination towards pacifism, as the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians suggest.
However, one of the requirements for Christian ministry is the belief that no one is irredeemable because we have all been redeemed. Therefore I, for one, find nothing objectionable in the Pope’s expression of hope, much as I suspect it’s misplaced.
That, alas, is more than one can say for the Vatican’s announcement that it will soon sign a treaty recognizing ‘the State of Palestine’, the first time this term will have been used in an official document.
This effectively cuts Israel out of the process that can conceivably end in her obliteration. Understandably the announcement has caused much consternation in Israel, where Pope Francis is widely regarded as a friend of the Jews.
In fact, writing in the Holy See’s Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope says: “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked… Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’s disciples.”
The Pope’s whole CV shows that this statement came from the heart. Unfortunately in His Holiness this organ seems to house not only philo-Semitism but also a leftward political slant, with its attendant affection for ‘national liberation’.The two are in conflict, and one hopes Pope Francis finds a resolution in the city of God (Civitas Dei) rather than in the secular realm ruled by ‘the prince of this world’.