Catholic News Service, a News agency of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, offers this article from the Vatican’s statement concerning the death of the Al-Qaida leader and mastermind of the 9-11 attacks in the United States Osama Bin Laden
CNS STORY: Vatican says bin Laden\’s death cause for reflection, not rejoicing
According to the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi:
“In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”
No doubt that this man’s death will generate some strong feelings throughout the United States but the Vatican reminds us in this article that this occasion is a time for prayer and reflection for two reasons. Our belief in the dignity of humanity does not allow us to celebrate the death of another. The Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a Catholic organization focused on the dignity of the human person, offers this reflection from its chairman Benjamin Harnwell:
“It has been widely reported that many are rejoicing at the death of Osama bin Laden. Leaving aside the extra-judicial circumstances of his death and the issue of capital punishment, the Institute would like to stress that everyone, without exception, is made in the image and likeness of God. This imago Dei is inalienable and exists even in such gross and fanatic murderers as Mr. Bin Laden.
Yesterday, the Universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Divine Mercy which intimately binds God’s righteous justice with His infinite mercy. Osama bin Laden is unlikely to have availed himself of the sacrament of Reconciliation before his death, and in denying himself the possibility of mercy, may at this very moment be suffering the desolation of an eternity separated from Jesus Christ. And yet it is proper for Christians to pray for his soul and God’s mercy. In life, Mr. Bin Laden stained and fouled the image of God that was in him. We should not do the same at his death by displaying a lack of charity.”
The CNS article also reminds us that the death of Bin Laden will raise some other major social concerns. Christians in Pakistan are now going to face a very tense experience as they prepare for violent retributions in light of this man’s death. Our own national security would also have reasons to be elevated in anticipation of potential retributions. The fact is that we may feel one way with regards to the atrocity that this man committed to our nation but other parts of the world may see him as a martyr.
An attitude of prayer and reflection is necessary so that we can discern the path of Christian charity and love in the midst of the social violence that confronts this area of the world. Consider how many of us felt when we heard about the celebrations that occurred in the Middle East and Central Asia after 9-11. Now consider how the people over their will feel as they hear about our own reception of what they will probably dub 5-2. To end the spiral of violence we need to offer a different message that does not tell them that we are a people of violence and retribution but a people of love, justice and hope.
For us Americans the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln seems to be particularly relevant as we reflect on how we should appropriately move on from this violent episode. Instead of remaining a military presence we should strive even further to use this moment to promote a relationship that is constructed “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” Like the south after the civil war we will continue to see violent acts from aggressive people and we must be able to provide security especially on those who will suffer from these retributions. The Christian minorities in this region will suffer just like the blacks suffered during reconstruction and we cannot ignore their plight. But we must be able to prove that our intention is not to bear ill will but to be attentive to the suffering that they are experiencing from the social, economic and military stresses that they face. Let us reflect on the charge that Abraham Lincoln gave us during his second inaugural address when he called us to adopt a vision of reconciliation and peace.
let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.