Benedict stands firm despite calls to "retract or redress"

Representatives of Islamic states in New York for a United Nations meeting have called upon the Pope to either retract or make redress for his controversial Regenburg remarks but the Holy See representative said it is the duty of everyone to sideline extremists.

The Vancouver Sun reports that Vatican State President, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo told the UN that people with political influence should be doing all they can to ensure extremists are sidelined.

He also re-explained what the Vatican says Benedict XVI had meant when he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who equated Islam with violence.

"It falls to all interested parties - to civil society as well as to states to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty," Cardinal Lajolo told the assembly.

It emerged on Wednesday that foreign ministers of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference had agreed on a communique calling on the Vatican to "retract or redress" the terms used by the Pope in his 12 September speech at the University of Regensberg in Bavaria, Germany.

The ministers had met on the sidelines of the annual summit on Monday night the same day the Pope welcomed at his summer residence ambassadors from some 22 Muslim countries that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

At the unprecedented gathering, the Pope said dialogue between Christians and Muslims was vital to achieving peace and stability.

"A sincere dialogue necessarily entails self-critical analysis of the relationship of our traditions to those social, political and economic structures prone to become agents of violence and injustice," Cardinal Lajolo told delegates to the UN.

Lajolo referred to the Pope's speech after suggesting the US should have moved more quickly to have the UN Security Council call a halt to the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.

"The Pope - as is known - expressed sadness that some passages in his academic address could have lent themselves to misinterpretation," said the Cardinal.

"His real intention was to explain that 'not religion and violence, but religion and reason go together.'"

Debates continue in Australia

In online answers to readers of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Jesuit Fr Father Emmet Costello has branded the Pope's comments that Islam was an 'evil' religion as "unfortunate".

According to the Telegraph, many readers were concerned the Church was outdated and incapable of dealing with the issue.

Others were concerned that the Christian message is being lost under the influx of Asian and Muslim people entering the country.

However, Fr Costello described the Pope's comments as "unfortunate" and the that Pontiff was not above criticism.

Fr Costello said: "What the Pope said in response was: 'These words were in fact a quotation from a medieval text which does not in any way express my personal thoughts.' Then I ask, why did he say it?

"They spoke differently then. He also said modern reason means that religion, including the Catholic Church, should face "a dialogue which should include self criticism".

He says the Catholic Church should "look hard at itself, particularly in the light of much cruelty in the 14th and 15th century, like the Spanish inquisition."

But he also had harsh words for "extremists" in the Muslim community, saying: "Many claim that Arabs tend to me more violent than others, hence it is inevitable that Muslims would tend to be more violent over the centuries.

"Let us all try to mitigate this extremity and encourage more and more a conversation because in this age of terrorism and bombing, more than ever, the world could be plunged into another war."

Meanwhile, in northern Melbourne, Our Lady's Craigieburn parish priest, Fr Peter Hansen, said the Pope's speech might have been taken out of context, and that he'd be making an effort to speak about the issue with members of his parish, according to a Hume Star report.

"The matter requires some clarification, and I'll be looking to do just that", said Fr Hansen.

The City of Hume has a large Islamic population, with Catholicism and Islam the most two popular religions in the area, according to the 2001 Census figures, the Star says.

Vatican stands firm on Pope's controversial comments (Vancouver Sun, 28/9/06)
Vatican stands firm on Pope's controversial comments (Daily Telegraph, 29/9/06)
Pope's remarks don't offend
(Hume Star, 28/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Text of Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture
Emmet P. Costello Online

Pope to meet Muslim ambassadors today (CathNews, 25/9/06)
No winners in Benedict polemic, says Melkite archbishop (CathNews, 22/9/06)
Sorry Benedict reiterates "deep respect" for Islam (CathNews, 21/9/06)
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)

29 Sep 2006