In light of the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is difficult for many of us Catholic Christians to truly express and articulate how we feel. Yes, there is a definite sense or relief, and almost joy, in the fact that this man who killed & hated many, including Americans and Christians, can no longer direct harm to be done. Yet there’s also tremendous sadness and disbelief in how some of our Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters are reacting to the news of his killing by cheering, shooting off fireworks and more. But overall in the conversations I’ve had with Catholic friends about the killing, the general reactions have been ones of mixed-emotions in how to react and process the information. The reactions have been a mix of relief, sadness, concern, hope, and a deep-seeded desire for justice through charity. And as a Catholic who seeks to have the Church help me understand how to process information such as this, I think the Vatican has summed up our initial reaction the best in their official statement:
Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.
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. – Vatican spokesman Fr.Federico Lombardi, SJ
Several friends have commented on how ironic it is that the killing of Osama bin Laden and the subsequent reactions have taken place on the Feast of Divine Mercy, a day when we as Catholics recall “the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity” (Blessed Pope John Paul II). On this day, if we are to fully observe the Feast of Mercy we are called to do seven different things, the last of which is to “Be merciful to others, through our actions, words, and prayer on their behalf.”
I must admit, it’s hard to pray for a man who has shown so much hatred to us and has resulted in the killing of so many. And the death of Osama bin Laden may very well be considered justified because of the atrocities he has committed, but that is not for me to judge and determine, as that is not my role but God’s. Instead, my role, as the official Vatican statement says, is that I should reflect on this occasion and use this opportunity to hope and pray for further peace in the world and within myself.
God issues us challenges in our lives and gives us opportunities to grow in holiness and fidelity in him. And if the killing of Osama bin Laden isn’t one of those opportunities for the world to see the mercy and love of God through the Catholic Church, then I don’t know what is. And so I pray, and will continue to pray though it can be hard sometimes, for Osama bin Laden. A man that, despite his tremendous failings, deserves the divine mercy of God that I hope to one day receive.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” –Matthew 5:43-48