Castel Gandolfo: Benedict XV1's 30 minutes of damage control Print E-mail

Tuesday September 26, 2006

Papal gathering aims to quell controversy

Diplomats from 20 Islamic nations join outside Rome

Pope Benedict XVI greets Kuwait ambassador to the Holy See Ahamad Abdulkareem Al-Ibrahim on Monday before meeting with Muslim diplomats and members of the Arab League at Castel Gandolfo. L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Los Angeles Times

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI brought together diplomats from more than 20 Islamic countries Monday and told them that Christians and Muslims must overcome historical enmities and join to reject all forms of violence and intolerance.

The gathering at the pope's summer residence south of Rome was the latest effort by Benedict to quell the furor stirred two weeks ago by remarks about Islam. He is attempting to channel the emotion into what he calls an authentic and respectful dialogue.

Expressing his "esteem and profound respect" for Muslim believers, the pope said world peace and the future of mankind depends in large part on the ability of Christians and Muslims to build "bridges of friendship" and engage one another as they confront danger and challenges.

"Faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together ... to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence," the pope said. And, as "religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction."

Benedict spoke in French for about five minutes, then greeted the participants one by one, shaking their hands and exchanging a few words.

Privately, some of the participants at Castel Gandolfo expressed frustration that there was not more of an opportunity for give and take. But publicly, most said they welcomed the encounter.

"It was a very positive meeting, and it could be more positive if we can consider this a starting point," said Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, one of about 20 representatives from Italy's Muslim communities who attended.

Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See, Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, said he considered the meeting a major step forward.

"I think it is time to put what happened behind us and build bridges among all the civilizations," Yelda said. "The Holy Father expressed his profound respect for Islam and other religions; this is what we were expecting and this is what we had."

Benedict sparked outrage in much of the Muslim world after quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who attacked Islam as "evil and inhuman." Some protests turned violent and may have led to the slaying of an Italian nun in Somalia.
 London -- Tuesday September 26, 2006

Pope Benedict tries to build bridges after his speech: Sudan was the only Muslim nation not to send a representative (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Pope urges dialogue in meeting with Muslim leaders

By Jenny Booth and agencies

Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim diplomats today that the future depends on dialogue between Christians and Muslims, at a special summit meeting in his summer residence near Rome.

The Pope was meeting representatives from 21 Muslim countries and the Arab League at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills, as part of his efforts to mend relations after his recent remarks about Islam and violence ignited the Vatican’s worst international crisis in decades.

The pontiff also quoted from his predecessor, John Paul II, who had close relations with the Muslim world, stating the need for "reciprocity in all fields", including religious freedom.

After his five-minute speech, in a salon in the papal palace, Benedict, greeted each envoy one by one. He clasped their hands warmly and chatted for a few moments with each of the diplomats.

"The circumstances which have given risen to our gathering are well known," Benedict said, referring to his remarks on Islam and violence in a speech in Germany on September 12. He did not dwell on the contested remarks, which set off protests and threats around the Muslim world.

Muslims in many cities around the world protested at Benedict's remarks at Regensburg University, where he once taught theology.

The quoted the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman", particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

Since his speech at the University of Regensburg, Pope Benedict has said that his remarks were taken out of context. He issued a unique public apology saying that he regretted that Muslims were offended, although he did not actually retract his words.

Addressing the diplomats today, Benedict said that dialogue between Christians and Muslims could not be reduced to an optional extra. "It is, in fact, a vital necessity on which in large measure our future depends," he said, quoting to a speech in gave to Muslims in Germany in 2005.

Benedict also quoted the words of his predecessor, John Paul II, who said that "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres," particularly religious freedom. This is a major issue for the Vatican in Saudi Arabia and several other countries where non-Muslims cannot worship openly.

Among predominantly Muslim nations with diplomatic relations to the Vatican, only Sudan did not participate in the meeting.

Iran, Iraq and Egypt sent representatives, as did Indonesia, where Christian-Muslim tensions were further heightened last week by the execution of three Catholic militants. Pope Benedict had appealed for the men’s lives to be spared.

Turkey also accepted the invitation. The Pope’s planned visit to the predominantly Muslim but officially secular country in November was temporarily cast into doubt, after Turkish officials vigorously protested at the Regensburg remarks.

"The Holy Father stated his profound respect for Islam. This is what we were expecting," said Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, the Iraqi envoy, as he left the meeting. "It is now time to put what happened behind (us) and build bridges."

Last week, the Holy See’s ambassadors stationed in Muslim countries met local dignitaries to reassure them that the Pope respects Islam, and to urge them to read the whole speech, which was an exploration of the relationship between faith and reason.

The Reverend Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said that the fact that Muslim countries had accepted the Pope’s invitation to today’s meeting reflected a "desire to work together for the great ideals, the great objectives of peace, justice."

Yesterday Pope Benedict praised an Italian missionary nun who was shot in Somalia on September 17, in an attack that might have been linked to Muslim fury at the Regensburg speech. Benedict noted that the nun forgave her attackers as she lay dying in Mogadishu, showing "the victory of love over hate and evil".
 Tuesday September 26, 2006

Smoke peace pipe: Pope

Castelgandolfo (Italy), Reuters: Pope Benedict told Muslim envoys on Monday that Christian and Muslim believers must reject violence, in an audience meant to defuse anger at his use of quotes saying Islam was spread by the sword.

The Pope expressed his “profound respect” for members of the Islamic faith in a meeting with diplomatic envoys from some 20 Muslim countries plus the leaders of Italy’s own Muslim community at his summer residence, Castelgandolfo. “Christians and Muslims must learn to work together... in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence,” said the 79-year-old Pope. It was the fourth time he had tried to make amends to Muslims, without actually apologising directly, for a speech at a university in his native Germany on September 12.

The leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics has expressed regret at the response to his quoting 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said the Prophet Mohammad commanded his followers “to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The Pope has said his intention was to explain that religion goes together with reason, not with violence.
 Pakistan -- September 26, 2006 Tuesday Ramazan 2, 1427

Pope for joint efforts to end intolerance

CASTELGANDOLFO (Italy), Sept 25: Pope Benedict assured Muslims on Monday that he respected them and was committed to dialogue as he met envoys to defuse anger at his use of quotes saying their faith was spread by violence.

In a speech to diplomats from some 20 Muslim countries plus the leaders of Italy’s own Muslim community at his summer residence south of Rome, the Pope said both Christians and Muslims had to reject violence.

Several of the envoys who attended the unprecedented meeting said they considered it had gone a long way to help end the controversy that began two weeks ago with a speech by the Pope at a university in his native Germany.

But Italian news agency ANSA quoted Cairo-based Al-Azhar, one of the Muslim world’s most prestigious seats of religious studies, and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as saying they still wanted a ‘clear apology’ from the Pope.

“All that he said is not the clear apology the Azhar has asked for,” a spokesman for Al-Azhar was quoted as saying.

The deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Habib, was also quoted as saying that the Pope must ‘make a clear apology or delete from his speech the offensive references (...) He should not skirt the issue.”

In his meeting with Muslim envoys, the Pope did not specifically mention the quote that angered Muslims worldwide, saying the circumstances that made the encounter necessary ‘are well known’.

“Christians and Muslims must learn to work together ... in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence,” the 79-year-old pontiff said at the meeting in the papal summer palace.

It was the fourth time he has tried to make amends, without actually apologising directly, for his speech on Sept 12.

“I think this meeting has resolved many problems ... we can close this controversy,” said Khalil Altoubat, a member of the Italian Muslim community’s liaison group with the government.

TOUGHEST CRISIS: The Pope is facing the toughest international crisis since his election in April last year, and the severity of some reactions has raised doubts about a planned trip to Turkey in November.

Mario Scialoja, an adviser to the Italian section of the World Muslim League who attended the audience, said afterwards he thought it was a ‘very good and warm speech’.

“He recalled the differences but expressed his willingness to continue in a cordial and fruitful dialogue, said Scialoja, who added that he ‘had not been expecting another apology’.

The atmosphere at the 30-minute meeting appeared cordial. ­Reuters