A radical Muslim group threatened a suicide attack on the Vatican yesterday even as the Holy See said Pope Benedict regretted that some Muslims were offended by his comments about the role of violence in the spread of Islam.
The pontiff “sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement.
But the Pope’s apology by proxy was not enough to quell a string of attacks against Christian churches on the West Bank and in Gaza. And Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood demanded a direct mea culpa from the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.
Mohammed Bishr, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, said the statement “was not an apology” but a “pretext that the Pope was quoting somebody else as saying so and so.” “We need the Pope to admit the big mistake he has committed and then agree on apologizing, because we will not accept others to apologize on his behalf,” Bishr said.
An Iraqi insurgent group threatened the Vatican with a suicide attack over the Pope’s remarks, according to a statement posted yesterday on the Web.
“We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life,” said the message posted in the name of the Mujahedeen Army on a Web site frequently used by militant groups. The message’s authenticity could not be independently verified. The statement was addressed to “you dog of Rome” and threatens to “shake your thrones and break your crosses in your home.”
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Protests prompted several leaders in Muslim-majority nations to speak out yesterday or lodge objections through diplomatic channels. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Benedict should withdraw his “ugly and unfortunate” comments.
Morocco’s King Mohammed recalled his Vatican ambassador for consultations, while Yemen’s president denounced the pontiff.
Benedict sparked the outrage when he gave a speech last week in which he quoted the criticism of the Prophet Muhammed by 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Muhammed brought was “evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”