.- In a continuing effort to diminish the violent reaction of radical Muslims who have torched Christian churches, killed a religious sister, and threatened the life of the Pope, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, met with Islamic and Jewish leaders today in Rome.
Poupard told several Italian faith leaders that the Vatican is interested, as it has been in the past, in an open dialogue for the purposes of achieving peace. "At this difficult moment our presence here is an invitation to authentic dialogue between those who believe in one God,” Italian news service ANSA reported the cardinal as saying.
"The alternative to terrorism and violence is dialogue and this path passes via the recognition of differences," he continued.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI, expressed sorrow over the violence that has resulted from a portion of a speech he gave at the University of Regenburg, during his recent trip to Bavaria. While the Pontiff said that the words of the 14th century emperor who he quoted should not be attributed to him, he did not apologize for using them. He said his purpose, as indicated by a press release from the Vatican, was actually to call for an understanding of the rationality of faith and the place it has in fostering dialogue between cultures and religions.
While many in the Muslim world continue their protests over the Pope’s choice of words, Abdallah Redouane, head of the Islamic cultural centre in Rome, said: "As far as we are concerned, we consider this chapter closed. Now we must look to the future."
Sami Salem, Imam of Rome’s mosque, who on Monday said the pope's words had "set us back many years", indicated that dialogue still had a long way to go. But, he too stressed his commitment to it.
"I hope for a future in which the representatives of every religion can be proud and enjoy the respect they deserve. I hope for a future of dialogue. I am here. We are always ready for dialogue," he said.
In the rest the world, Islamic leaders are divided.
The Prime Minister of largely-Muslim Malaysia said today that he thinks the Pope’s words of regret were “acceptable.”
However, leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, and Turkey say they are not appeased. Some in Turkey are calling for their government to press charges against the Holy Father for “insulting Islam” and arrest him when he arrives for his November visit.