Vatican spokesman Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement on Saturday the pope’s position on Islam was unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that the Church “esteems Muslims, who adore the only God.”
The pope is “very upset that some parts of his speech could have sounded offensive to the sensibility of the Muslim faithful and were interpreted in a way that does not correspond at all to his intentions,” Bertone added.
The worst crisis since Benedict was elected in April 2005 was sparked by a speech in Germany Tuesday that appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that early Muslims spread their religion by violence.
In his speech, the pope quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus who said: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The backlash has cast doubt on a planned visit to Turkey by the German-born pope in November. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said the Vatican’s statement was insufficient and they wanted “a personal apology.”
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Taking a break?
“We feel he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology,” the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters.
The Vatican spokesman’s statement came as Muslims across the globe protest Benedict’s remarks in scenes reminiscent of the protests this year following the publication in a Danish paper of satirical cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.
Authorities were investigating the motives of Molotov cocktail attacks on three churches in the West Bank city of Nablus, following a day of Palestinian protests against the pope’s remarks. No one was hurt and the churches were not badly damaged.
A group called the “Lions of Monotheism” claimed responsibility for two of the incidents on Saturday morning, Palestinian security sources said.
And in Indonesia, up to 1,000 Muslims rallied in protest at the comments made earlier in the week by the pope, who was citing an obscure Medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam’s founder as “evil and inhuman,” video of the scene showed.
Outside the Palestinian Embassy in Jakarta, police looked on as protesters stood behind the gates waving flags while organizer Heri Budianto shouted, “God is great.”
“Of course as we know the meaning of jihad can only be understood by Muslims,” Budianto told the crowd. “Only Muslims can understand what jihad is. It is impossible that jihad can be linked with violence, we Muslims have no violent character.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Saturday urged the pope to apologize and withdraw his controversial comments, according to The Associated Press.
“The pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created,” the Bernama news agency quoted Abdullah as saying, AP said.
“The Vatican must now take full responsibility over the matter and carry out the necessary steps to rectify the mistake.”
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry on Saturday confirmed to CNN that the country has recalled its envoy to the Vatican for consultations. Morocco, in North Africa, is a Muslim nation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the pope on Saturday, telling the mass-circulation Bild newspaper that the pontiff had merely been calling for dialogue with other religions.
“Whoever criticizes the pope misunderstood the aim of his speech,” Merkel was quoted as saying, according to Reuters.
“It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the pope expressedly spoke in favour of this dialogue … What Benedict XVI emphasised was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion.”
During his address at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.
“God,” the emperor, as the pope quoted, said, “is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature.” (Full story)
A transcript of the pope’s remarks obtained by The Associated Press television network reads: “In the seventh (sura, or chapter of the Quran), the emperor comes to speak about jihad, holy war.
“The emperor certainly knew that Sura 2, 256, reads: ‘No force in matters of faith’. It is one of the early suras, from a time — as experts say — in which Mohammed himself was still powerless and threatened.
“However, the emperor of course also knew the requirements about the holy war that were later formulated in the Quran. Without going into details like the handling of the owners of the scriptures, or non-believers, he (the emperor) turned to his interlocutors — in a surprisingly brusque way — with the central question after the relationship between religion and violence.
“He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'”
‘Ignorance of Islam’
The Organization of the Islamic Conference, in a statement released Thursday, said it “regrets the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed, and what he referred to as ‘spreading’ Islam ‘by the sword.'”
“The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is ‘incompatible with the nature of God’ is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history.”
Muslim Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Mahdi Akef also expressed anger over the pope’s academic speech.
“The pope’s statements come to add fuel to fire and trigger anger within the Muslim world and show that the West with its politicians and clerics are hostile to Islam.”
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the pope’s comments were “ugly” and said the pontiff should withdraw them.
“The pope spoke like a politician rather than as a man of religion,” Erdogan said in televised remarks, according to Reuters.
“The statements are ugly and unfortunate. The pope needs to take a step back to preserve inter-religious peace,” said Erdogan.
Erdogan was speaking before the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope was sorry for upsetting Muslims in his lecture.
Criticism was not confined to Muslims. The New York Times said in an editorial on Saturday that he must issue a “deep and persuasive” apology for quotes used in his speech.
“The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly,” the Times said.
“He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal,” it added.