Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pope invites Muslim envoys to meet with him at summer home

September 23, 2006

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— Pope Benedict XVI has invited Muslim envoys to meet with him at his summer residence Monday for what the Holy See says is urgently needed dialogue following the crisis ignited by his remarks on Islam and violence.

Turkey and Iran immediately said their representatives would attend.

Benedict's attempt to talk through the controversy comes as Christian-Muslim tensions rose in Indonesia over the executions of three Roman Catholic militants. Benedict had appealed to the mostly Muslim nation to spare the men.

The Vatican announced the pope's invitations Friday, saying they were extended to ambassadors to the Holy See from largely Muslim countries for a meeting at the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.

Leaders of the Muslim community in Italy, who have advised the Italian government on politically delicate issues of Muslim integration in the largely Catholic country, also were invited.

Benedict's chief aide on inter-religious dialogue, French Cardinal Paul Poupard, also will participate.

Vatican Radio described the meeting as an "appointment totally dedicated to the urgency for dialogue today, between the cultures and religions of all the world, as Benedict XVI has repeatedly reiterated."

The brief Vatican announcement made no mention of the uproar over Benedict's remarks during a Sept. 12 speech to professors at the University of Regensburg in Germany, where he used to teach theology.

During the speech, which explored the relationship between faith and reason, Benedict cited a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The pope told faithful at Castel Gandolfo on Sunday that he was "deeply sorry" that Muslims were offended by the words, which he said did not reflect his own opinions. Later in the week, he told pilgrims his comments were open to misinterpretation and that he had "deep respect" for Islam.

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