Pope “sincerely regrets” that his words have offended

.- Pope Benedict XVI regrets that his recent comments have been misinterpreted in an offensive way, thus spurring outrage among many Muslims, according to the Vatican’s Secretary of State.  On the second day of his new job, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone released a statement clarifying that the Pontiff regards Muslims with “respect and esteem,” and calling people to give his remarks a “complete and attentive” reading.

Bertone said that it was necessary to release a statement in addition to the one released by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, due to the reaction by many Muslims to a short passage in the Pope’s recent address at the University of Regensburg.  The reaction of the Muslim world has moved from the expression of displeasure by Muslim clerics to the burning of effigies of the Pope and attacks on Christian churches in the Middle East.

The cardinal emphasized that Benedict holds the same position on Islam as the Church expressed in paragraph 3 of the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate.”  

The document states that that the Church regards Muslims, “with esteem,” noting their adoration of “the one God” their honor for Jesus (who Muslims consider a prophet) and Mary, their valuing of the moral life, and attentiveness to prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.

Benedict, Cardinal Bertone continued, wants to continue the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue that his predecessors began.  In August of last year the Pope met with members of the Muslim community, telling them that, “We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity.”

Protests in many Muslim countries began Thursday after Islamic clerics condemned the Pope’s words.  Groups of angry Muslims gathered, chanting anti-Catholic slogans, holding signs, and burning images of Pope Benedict.  This morning the Associated Press reported that groups of Palestinians, bearing guns and firebombs attacked five Christian churches on the West Bank, leaving bullet holes in the churches and charring walls and doors.

The words which have spurred on such violence were not even the Pope’s own.  Benedict very clearly noted that he was quoting the words of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleaologus when he noted that the prophet Mohammed’s teachings on jihad were “evil and inhuman” and do not mesh with the earlier surah 2, 256 of the Quran which reads, “There is no compulsion in religion.”

Bertone said that the Pope “did not mean, nor does he mean, to make (the opinion of the emperor) his own in any way.”  The Pope was simply using the comments to speak “in an academic context” on the theme of “the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come,” Bertone said.  He also noted that “a complete and attentive reading” of the Pope’s words make this evident and that the Pope has made similar statements against religious violence in the past.

“The Holy Father thus 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,” Bertone concluded, noting that it was in the same speech that the Pope himself warned secularized Western culture to have respect for religious cultures such as those in the Muslim world.  Benedict told the West to guard against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom."

“In reiterating his respect and esteem for those who profess Islam,” Bertone said, Pope Benedict, “hopes they will be helped to understand the correct meaning of his words so that, quickly surmounting this present uneasy moment, witness to the ‘Creator of heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men’ may be reinforced, and collaboration may intensify ‘to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.’”

The full text of Pope Benedict's original remarks are here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/bavaria06/message9.htm

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