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Two notes suggestive of the significance of ritual

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — Castro asks the Pope about it, suicide bombers don’t get any — ritual ]

I have been promising to write about ritual for some time now, and meanwhile other things have intervened…

Two recent news stories, however, remind us that ritual is not as insignificant or even passé as our non-depth-psychological, a-comparative-religious, un-cultural-anthropological secular mindset might lead us to believe…


Let’s start with Pope Benedict XVI. He’s known to be a bit of a stickler for decent ritual, having penned the major papal exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, the “motu proprio” Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, and, as Cardinal Ratzinger, the book The Spirit of the Liturgy.

Fidel Castro, on the other hand, is more interested in politics than piety, or so the story goes – and was excommunicated in 1962.

So what happens when Benedict XVI (Episcopus Romae) meets Fidel Castro, (Presidente, retired)? Apparently, it’s Fidel who quizzes Benedict about his work…

During his March 29 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Fidel Castro questioned the Pope about reforms in the Latin liturgy, and asked for books that would help him understand changes in the Church, the Vatican has disclosed.

That’s interesting, and a wee bit provocative of thought…


The other incident that caught my eye was a piece by Ashfaq Yusufzai on Central Asia Online headed Suicide bombers receive no death rituals, with the sub-header Scholars say bombers are the most unfortunate of people:

Suicide bombers who believe they will go to paradise are mistaken, ulema scholars say. “The suicide bombers are the most unfortunate people on the surface of the earth, as they are neither bathed nor buried, unlike undisgraced Muslims,” said Maulana Aminullah Shah in Par Hoti Mardan. Shah, a prayer leader in Mohallah New Islamabad, Par Hoti, Mardan, said he felt sorry for Rehmanullah, a 17-year-old suicide bomber who attacked Afghan and coalition forces last September and was buried without a funeral prayer.

And from the same article:

Ajmal Shah, a prayer leader in Daudzai, Peshawar, is blunt about the importance of those rituals. “The act of suicide bombing is condemnable. All those blowing themselves up and killing innocent Muslims wouldn’t find a place in paradise as they had been promised by their trainers,” he said of the promises the Taliban use to lure teenage boys into becoming suicide bombers.


Ritual. Oh, I know — “we moderns” like to think of it as outmoded, tedious, repetitious, dry as dust…

But it reaches those it reaches, it digs deep into them, it has them by the heart.

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