Police Thwart Possible Terrorist Attack Upon the Pope

The London Metropolitan Police released the following report:

Five arrested under Terrorism Act

At approximately 5.45am today, 17 September 2010, five men were arrested by officers from the MPS Counter Terrorism Command on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

The men, aged 26, 27, 36, 40, and 50, were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 at business premises in central London.

The men have been taken to a central London police station where they will be interviewed by detectives.

Searches are being carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000 at: a business premises in central London and residential premises in north and east London. Initial searches have not uncovered any hazardous items.

Today’s arrests were made after police received information. Following initial inquiries by detectives a decision was made to arrest the five men.

Following today’s arrests the policing arrangements for the Papal visit were reviewed and we are satisfied that our current policing plan remains appropriate. The itinerary has not changed. There is no change to the UK threat level.

As you can see, there’s no mention of nationality, religion, or any sort of motive. So when I was reading this, I tried to imagine what might be going on. After all, there are three groups of people in the UK who hate the pope’s guts: radical Protestants of the Ian Paisley type, radical atheists, and radical Muslims. Of these two, I suspect we can safely discount the first group, although given the violence in Northern Ireland in recent year, it’s a harrowing reminder that interdenominational violence in the name of Christendom is a thing of the recent past.

Well, now it’s been revealed that all five men are Algerian street-cleaners. There’s still no names, and no explicit mention of motive, but the implication seems to be that the men were going to do this in the name of Islam. That said, the article above quotes quite a few shocking examples of British anti-Catholicism from its liberal quarters, folks who wouldn’t have been too torn up over the unthinkable happening to the pope.

All of this has served as a reminder that we’re a pilgrim Church: we’re called to be in the world, but not of the world. Matthew 5:19-12 reminds us,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Pray for the Pope!

EDIT: Turns out there were six men, not five, they weren’t all Algerian (although they were all North African), and they are now being described as “disguised as street cleaners,” rather than actual street cleaners. That’s a lot of corrections, and I won’t be surprised if some of the latest information needs to be modified as well.


  1. Joe,
    In the second article, it quotes the Pope as saying that Islam “has brought the world only evil and inhuman things.” I thought the Pope quoted a question asking if Islam was a religion of the sword, but I don’t remember this other quote or the Pope’s subsequent apology.

  2. It’s a stunning bit of slander, that, given that he’s quoting, and with disapproval! It’s like saying, “Did you hear the Daily Mail wrote that Islam ‘has brought the world only evil and inhuman things’?” Both are equally accurate… which is to say, not at all.

    Here’s the text of his actual remarks
    , in which he says of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus:

    “In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable , on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”[3] The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.[4]

    The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.[5] The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.”

    The story is part of the back-drop to Benedict’s main question about what role, if any, is to be given to reason in the realm of religion. Emperor Paleologus’ argument (that a good God wouldn’t command an evil act) is one rooted in reason, after all.

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