Pope Benedict XVI has apologised for the furore caused by a lecture he gave in Germany where he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who had referred to the “evil and inhuman” aspects of Islam.
He said on 17 September, “l am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State pub¬lished a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual re¬spect.”
Benedict’s statement came after protests from senior Muslim leaders in places including Britain, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia; Iran and Turkey.
In Budapest, a European Protestant leader told journalists the use of “historical quotations” was not helpful as this could lead to misunderstandings, but that people must also be allowed to raise critical questions about Islam.
On 16 September, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, reiterated the Pope’s “respect and esteem” for followers of Islam and that he remained firmly committed to inter religious and inter cultural dialogue.
In London, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said on BBC radio that elements in all religions including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that could be used to promote violence, “we all need to recognise that,” he said, adding: “There is a sense of frustration among the most moderate and educated Muslims that they don’t really get a fair hearing. It goes quite deep.”
Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul signalled at the weekend that the Pope’s scheduled visit in November would still go ahead.
The Italian La Repubblica newspaper said the “debacle” following the Pope’s speech was more than a minor problem of communication but would oblige the Vatican to completely rethink its strategy on Islam. (ENI)