| A policeman searches a faithful in front of the Pope’s residence before his Sunday prayer. (AFP)
Vatican City, Sept. 17 (Reuters): Pope Benedict tried today to calm Muslim anger at his remarks on Islam, saying he was “deeply sorry” about the reaction and that medieval quotes he used on holy war did not reflect his personal views.
The head of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics stopped short of the full apology or retraction demanded by some Muslims for a speech they say portrayed Islam as tainted by violence.
It was unclear whether his words would end the backlash.
The deputy leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Habib, initially said it was “a sufficient apology”, but later said: “It does not rise to the level of a clear apology and, based on this, we’re calling on the Pope of the Vatican to issue a clear apology that will decisively end any confusion.”
Before the Pope spoke, there had already been a protest today in Iran and attacks on churches in the West Bank.
“... I 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,” he told pilgrims at his Castelgandolfo summer residence.
“These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought,” the Pope said at his weekly Angelus prayer. “I hope 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 mutual respect.”
The controversy broke when the Pope referred to criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. The emperor said everything the Prophet Mohammad brought was evil “such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.
In Iran, about 500 theological school students protested in the holy city of Qom today. “The Pope should fall on his knees in front of a senior Muslim cleric and try to understand Islam,” influential cleric Ahmad Khatami said.
But in a sign that some Muslims have been mollified, the head of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate welcomed the statement from the Vatican on Saturday.
The uproar had raised questions about whether a papal visit to Turkey in November could go ahead, but the Turkish government, while calling his remarks “ugly”, said there were no plans to call it off.