Vatican says pope extremely upset that Muslims were offended by his words

Saturday, September 16th 2006, 9:08 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI is ``extremely upset'' that Muslims have been offended by some of his words in a recent speech in Germany, the Vatican said Saturday.

The new Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pope's position on Islam is unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that the church ``esteems Muslims, who adore the only God.''

Thus, the pope is ``extremely upset that some portions of his speech were able to sound offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers and have been interpreted in a way that does not at all correspond to his intentions,'' Bertone said in a statement.

The words, in a speech Benedict gave to university professors earlier in the week during a pilgrimage to his homeland, angered many in the Islamic world and raised doubts over whether a planned trip to predominantly Muslim Turkey in late November would go ahead.

Leaders across the Muslim world have demanded the pope apologize for his remarks on Islam and jihad, or holy war, despite earlier Vatican's assurances that he meant only to emphasize the incompatibility between faith and war.

Benedict on Tuesday cited an obscure Medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam's founder as ``evil and inhuman'' _ comments some experts took as a signal that the Vatican was staking a more demanding stance for its dealings with the Muslim world. When giving the speech, the pope stressed that he was quoting words of a Byzantine emperor and did not comment directly on the ``evil and inhuman'' assessment.

Cardinal Bertone, referring to the emperor's assessment, said ``the Holy Father absolutely didn't intend nor intends to make it his own (assessment.)''

The cardinal pointed out that the pope was speaking in an academic setting and suggested that a ``complete and careful reading'' of the entire text would make clear the pope's reflections about the relationship between religion and violence in general.

He said the pope's speech ended with ``a clear and radical refusal of religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it comes from.''