- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI told thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican yesterday that worldwide Muslim anger over his speech in Germany last week was the result of an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Benedict also expressed respect for followers of all religions, “particularly Muslims,” during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

He reiterated that parts of the speech that offended Muslims did not reflect his personal opinion, and hoped it could lead to dialogue between religions.

The leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics has come under pressure from Muslims to make an unequivocal apology over his comments linking Islam with violence.

A personal expression of regret on Sunday in which he said he was “deeply sorry” for causing offense failed to fully appease Muslim leaders.

Before a packed and expectant St. Peter’s Square, the 79-year-old pope gave a day-by-day account of his six-day visit to his native Bavaria last week, including the address at Regensburg University that offended Muslims.

The speech, in which he quoted a medieval emperor criticizing some teachings of the prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” sparked several days of protests in Muslim countries.

“In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor. I wished to explain that not religion and violence, but religion and reason, go together,” the pope told pilgrims.

“I hope that my profound respect for world religions and for Muslims, who ‘worship the one God’ and with whom we ‘promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity’ is clear,” he said, citing the 1965 Nostra Aetate document under which the Vatican formally recognizes the major non-Christian faiths.

At the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said, “It is most disappointing to see personalities of high standing oblivious of Muslim sensitivities at these critical moments.”

Though he did not mention the pope, the reference was clear.

Gen. Musharraf called for a global ban on the “defamation of Islam.”

The Vatican wants to convene a meeting with envoys from Muslim countries in Rome as soon as the furor has calmed, possibly by the end of this month, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported yesterday.

In a sign of subsiding anger, Italian news agency ANSA reported that Morocco’s ambassador to the Holy See is to resume his functions in Rome today.

Rabat recalled Ambassador Ali Achour on Saturday for consultations at the height of the furor over Benedict’s remarks.

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