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Vatican clarifies Pope's comments on Islam September 16, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful," the Vatican Secretary of State announced in a clarifying statement released on Saturday, September 16.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had only been installed in the Vatican's second-ranking post the previous day, issued the statement in response to a worldwide furor among Muslim protesting the Pontiff's September 12 speech at the University of Regensburg.

In the passage of the speech that has roused so much anger, the Pope was quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, and the Pontiff "did not intend "to make that opinion his own in any way," the Secretary of State said. What the Pope intended, the Italian cardinal emphasized, was "a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come."

Pope Benedict is dismayed, the cardinal said, because his words were "interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions." Far from belittling the faith of Muslims, he noted, the Holy Father had explicitly warned, in that same speech, against "the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom."

Citing the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, Cardinal Bertone said that Pope Benedict held the Islamic faith in "esteem," and strongly favors inter-religious dialogue. He said that the Pope hopes the present "uneasy moment" can be overcome, and "collaboration may intensify" between Christians and Muslims.

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