Sorry Benedict reiterates "deep respect" for Islam

Vatican diplomats are scrambling to organise a possible interfaith summit to be held in the coming weeks in the wake of the polemic over Pope Benedict's remarks for which he again expressed his sorrow and respect for Islam yesterday.

Reflecting on his visit to Bavaria before a general audience crowd of 40,000 - double the usual number despite earlier threats of violence - Pope Benedict emphasised that the subject of his controversial talk at the University of Regensburg was the "relationship between faith and reason".

Addressing the polemic over his talk at his weekly audience, he said he "included a quotation on the relationship between religion and violence" which "unfortunately, was misunderstood".

"In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor. I wished to explain that not religion and violence but religion and reason go together.

Quoting the Vatican II declaration on the relation between the Church and non-Christian religions, the Pope said he hopes "that my profound respect for world religions and for Muslims, who "worship the one God" and with whom we 'promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity' is clear".

"Let us continue the dialogue both between religions and between modern reason and the Christian faith," the Pope concluded.

The Italian agency AKI reports that Vatican diplomats are already working to prepare a summit with Muslim ambassadors in an endeavour to defuse tension triggered by the Pope's lecture.

According to the Italian paper Corriere della Sera, the meeting could take place at the end of September.

In another initiative, the Pope's lecture has now been translated into Arabic for distribution by Vatican nuncios abroad and to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

The Arabic version of the speech was also published by the official newspaper of the Vatican, the Osservatore Romano.

Lay leader backs Pope's visit to Turkey

Referring to the Pope's planned visit to Turkey in November, Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant Egidio Catholic Community, told Turkish paper Zaman Daily that Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey was very important for Europe, the Church and Turkey, and said "this big event shouldn't have a shadow cast over it".

He notes that it was not the Pope who made the quotations that sparked fierce reactions, and claimed the speech was taken out of context and distorted by the media in Muslim countries.

Riccardi, a professor of modern church history at the University of Rome also recalled that the Pope openly said that Islam was not a religion of violence in Germany last year.

Professor Riccardi maintained there were attempts being made to sabotage the Pope's visit to Turkey.

When reminded of the Pope's words of opposition to Turkey's membership to the EU, made when he was a cardinal, Riccardi said "Benedict XVI is no longer a cardinal, he is a Pope and he is in the process of understanding Turkey's values and complexity".

Muslim leaders accept Pope's regret

In other signs that tensions may be easing Zaman also reports that Iran and Malaysia are satisfied with Pope Benedict's statement of regret.

At a press conference held at the end of a visit to Venezuela, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said: "We respect the Pope, we respect all those interested in peace and justice. I heard that he corrected his earlier offensive remarks."

According to the Malaysian news agency Bernama, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, in relation to the Pope's latest statement, said: "I suppose we could accept this. We hope that there would be no other statements that would anger Muslims."

Vatican: Possible summit with Muslims (AdKronos International, 20/9/06)
Iran, Malaysia Satisfied with Pope's Expression of Regret (Zaman Online, 20/9/06)
'Pope Trying to Understand Turkey's Values' (Zaman Online, 20/9/06)
Pope again expresses regrets about Islam remarks, offers words of respect to Muslims (Catholic Online, 20/9/06)
40,000 in St Peter's Square, Double Expectations (AGI, 20/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Nostra Aetate, Declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions (Documents of Vatican II)

World leaders bid to hose down flames of Benedict controversy (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Australia's moderate Muslims a sign of hope, Pell says (CathNews, 19/9/06)
Benedict "deeply sorry" for Muslim outrage but violence continues (CathNews, 18/9/09)
Benedict tells priests to serve Christ and be His voice (CathNews, 15/9/06)
Religious violence contrary to God's nature, Pope says (CathNews, 14/9/06)
No chance of world without reason, says Benedict (CathNews, 13/9/06)
Benedict says learn Gospel from Africa and Asia (CathNews, 11/9/06)
Benedict heads home to Bavaria, Germany (CathNews, 8/9/06)

21 Sep 2006