The headline Pope decries Christianophobia in Europe” really caught my eye!

Pope Benedict XVI

This Reuters report sure has a catchy title, and we should be pleased with the attention that intolerance and discrimination against Christians is getting.  I am particularly heartened, since one of my most active blog categories is “Don’t Diss My Church.”

Living in liberal Madison, WI, and reading the United States liberal media, one cannot help but notice the intolerance and discrimination suffered by Christians, who have even been intimidated into the fear of wishing someone “Merry Christmas” on a national holiday which even the government observes.

However, let’s be careful of what words we attribute to the Holy Father—he is a bit too diplomatic to use sensationalism, and he did not actually say “Christianophobia.”

Vatican Emblem

On Dec 16, 2010, Pope Benedict published a really elegant treatise on Religious Freedom – “MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE (1st January 2011).”  In the message written to world leaders, the Holy Father discusses the essential role of religious freedom in establishing peace, and mentions the intolerance and discrimination suffered by Christians, particularly in Europe.  The Reuters article, other than putting the word “Christianophobia” into Pope Benedict’s mouth, encapsulates many of the Holy Father’s points well and is worth reading. The Pope’s message is particularly worth reading.

The term “Christianophobia” is worthy of some discussion in itself.  Aside from appearing in the Reuters report, “Christianophobia” is also discussed by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, and is analyzed in the Observatory’s 5 year report on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, which states:

“Christianophobia or Christophobia are common terms that describe the phenomenon of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. The term consists of the words „Christian“ or „Christ“ and „phobos“ (φόβος) which means “irrational fear”. The term means therefore an irrational animosity towards Christ, Christians, or Christianity as a whole. As Christianity is familiar to Europeans, and antagonism against Christians is not due primarily to an „irrational fear of the unknown“, we have chosen to use the phrase Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians when speaking about this phenomenon.”

Semantics aside, it’s great to see Pope Benedict’s message reported by the media, and secretly I really enjoyed the sensational spin Reuters put on the message – Pope Benedict’s diplomatic and humble manner does not always get him the attention his brilliant writing deserves!

It is even possible that Reuter’s use of the word “Christianophobia” is not as sensational as it first appears.  Given the dwindling familiarity and dwindling level of knowledge of Christianity prevalent in Europe and in many United States locations today, the Observatory 5 Year Report’s definition of Christophobia as an antagonism stemming from a lack of familiarity or of knowledge, might after all be the correct description for the animosity commonly seen towards religion today.

“Not a hundred people in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is.”

-Bishop Fulton J Sheen