To Pope Benedict's considerable credit, he found it within himself to apologize to Muslims for quoting portions of a medieval text that described the spreading of Islam "by the sword."
As one who respects all faiths, I welcome his apology. I do so despite my enduring belief that when it comes to the spreading of religion by the sword, Pope Benedict's own church was not entirely innocent nearly five centuries ago. And there's plenty of blame to go around to other faiths.
After reading Pope Benedict's apology, I then thought of the predominantly Catholic conquistadores who forcefully invaded the Americas five centuries ago. On horseback, subjugating and plundering the great cultures of the time by means of swords, guns, and perhaps unintentionally- germs as well.
That's Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Incas, at the top of this post.
After the conquests of the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs and so many other wonderous cultures, the priests did the conversions to the church of the time. And while the priests did not carry swords, their actions were facilitated by those who did.
Sadly, a similar process was repeated in North America. Primarily Protestant Europeans came here, stole the land from the Native Americans, subjugated and in some cases destroyed their cultures. And while the missionaries did not carry swords, the ones who paved the way carried swords, guns, and germs. Don't even get me started on the slave dealers, and slave owners.
Pope Benedict's apology is a good start. But wouldn't it be an even grander uplifting of humanity if all conquerors who imposed their faith apologized to the descendants of those who were victimized by their imperialistic violence and forced to change their beliefs to conform?
To put it another way, shouldn't one's decision of faith- or even lack thereof- be a choice, not a compulsion set up by the power of invading armies?