Against the meaning of his entire history as a prince of the church and also against various dicta issued by him later as the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict has proclaimed that he will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the conclave convened by Pope John Paul II in the Umbrian town of Assisi. That gathering assembled eminences from the "world religions" to pray together for peace. Cardinal Ratzinger, as the present pope was then called, did not attend, and his absence was rightly seen as a dissent from, even a protest against, what he surely saw (but did not name) as heresy.
But Benedict has not quite recanted. Long after the 1986 gathering at which the leaders of the various religions prayed in unison, he wrote that it has led people to assume that all faiths are equal in truth which, of course, in his mind they are not. He will apparently avoid this error by having the delegates of the various faiths pray in separate rooms. Hindu holies have already accepted the not-yet-in-the-mail invitations.
The first "peace on earth" Catholic extravaganza was called "Pacem in Terris," after the encyclical of John XXIII in 1963. I actually attended a P.I.T. conference convened by Robert Maynard Hutchins of the long-gone Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, with many high-minded persona in attendance. Whether it inspired anyone I don't know. But, of course, it accomplished nothing. Which provoked from my altogether unbigoted and now deceased mother the observation that the whole to-do should have been called pacem in tuches. If you don't know what this means look it up on Google.
So what has provoked Benedict to initiate his convocation of the religious? (By the way, I especially hope he will not invite Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, who only a few weeks ago proclaimed that goyim have been put on this earth to serve Jews.) It is, surely, the now intensified Muslim -o.k., Islamist- war against Christians. The fact is that Catholics are the most numerous victims of this onslaught, although it is the Copts of Egypt who have actually had enough gumption to go into the streets.
The Muslim focus on Catholics is most evident in Iraq, Nigeria, the Philippines, Pakistan and in various countries in sub-Saharan Africa. But their targeting is not limited to these areas.
And some recent news from Iran, not about fixation on Catholics but about the arrest of perhaps 70 Christian fundamentalists since Christmas. And I suppose Roger Cohen will write again in the New York Times about Shi'a tolerance of other faiths in Persia.
And where has Barack Obama been while this intensified and mad aggression against Christians and Christianity is going on? Exactly nowhere.