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Ratzinger criticism for Italian Prime Minister

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has taken public exception to a statement by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who caused an uproar in Italy by saying that Western culture is superior to Islam.

"One cannot speak of the superiority of one culture over another, because history has shown that a society can change from one age to another," the cardinal remarked, speaking to the Italian daily La Repubblica.

Catholic World News reports that the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that at various times in the past several centuries, Islam has been superior to other cultures, while at other times Western Christian cultures have been superior.

Cardinal Ratzinger also pointed out that culture is a "very complex" issue, and it is simplistic to suggest that one culture is dominant without making distinctions. Islamic culture, for example, has made enormous contributions to mathematics, medicine, sciences, and architecture, he observed. In recent centuries, the cardinal continued, Islam has undergone "forms of decadence" at a time when Western culture was becoming more robust and energetic.