**from USA today
Pope meant no insult to Islam, Vatican says
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to offend Muslims when he spoke about holy war during his recent pilgrimage to Germany, the Vatican said Thursday. The Vatican sought to defend the pontiff from angry criticism from around the Islamic world.
"It certainly wasn't the intention of the pope to carry out a deep examination of jihad (holy war) and on Muslim thought on it, much less to offend the sensibility of Muslim believers," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said in a statement after Benedict returned to Rome.
A few hours earlier, Turkey's top Islamic cleric had asked Benedict to apologize for the remarks and accused Christians of bigotry toward Muslims. The controversy raises tensions ahead of the pope's scheduled visit to Turkey in November. It is to be his first papal visit to a Muslim country.
The pope made his remarks on Islam in a speech Tuesday at the University of Regensburg. He quoted from a book in which 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel II Paleologos and a Persian have a conversation about truths of Christianity and Islam.
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," Benedict said. "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.' "
Indicating the delicate nature of the topic, Benedict said "I quote" twice before reading passages about Islam, and he described them as "brusque." However, he neither explicitly agreed with nor repudiated the passages.
Ali Bardakoglu, a cleric who sets Turkey's religious agenda as head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said he was deeply offended. He called the remarks "extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate." Bardakoglu added that "if the pope was reflecting the spite, hatred and enmity" of others in the Christian world, then the situation was even worse.
In Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, also called for an apology.
"The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West," Akef said in a statement Thursday. Akef said he was "astonished that such remarks come from someone who sits on top of the Catholic Church which has its influence on the public opinion in the West."
In Qatar, prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi said Islam is a religion of peace and reason. "Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity," he told Al-Jazeera television. "We ask the pope to apologize to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its prophet and its beliefs."
The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference said the pope's remarks and "other falsifications" about Islam are regrettable
Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Benedict respects Islam. The pope wants to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam," Lombardi said in his statement.
"It is opportune to note that that which is at the pope's heart is a clear and radical refusal of the religious motivation of violence," Lombardi said.
While in Germany, Lombardi said that the pontiff had not given an interpretation of Islam as "something violent," although the spokesman said the religion contained both violent and non-violent strains.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Akef contended that the pope's remarks "threaten world peace" and "pour oil on the fire and ignite the wrath of the whole Islamic world to prove the claims of enmity of politicians and religious men in the West to whatever is Islamic."
In his address Tuesday, Benedict did not touch directly on Islamic extremism, though it is an issue he has expressed concern about. In Cologne, Germany, last year, he urged Islamic leaders to take responsibility for their communities and teach their young people to abhor violence.
Although officially secular, Turkey is 99% Muslim. The main purpose of the pope's planned pilgrimage there in November is to meet with the spiritual leader of the world's 200 million Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whose headquarters are in Istanbul.
Benedict on Thursday closed an emotion-filled six-day visit to his native Germany that combined touching personal moments with a warning against shutting God out of modern life.
"Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God. There are too many different frequencies filling our ears," he said Sunday at a Mass outside Munich. "People in Asia and Africa admire our scientific and technical progress, but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision, as if this were the highest form of reason."
Posted 9/14/2006 2:03 PM ET
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