Castel Gandolfo, Italy Seeking to end anger in the Islamic world over his remarks on holy war, Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim envoys Monday that their two faiths must overcome historic enmities and together reject violence, saying the future of humanity is at stake.
The pope also urged "reciprocity" in religious freedom, calling for preserving the rights of Christians throughout the Islamic world.
"The circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known," Benedict said, referring to his remarks on Islam in a Sept. 12 speech at Regensburg University in Germany, which set off protests around the Muslim world.
He did not dwell on the contested remarks, in which he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as saying, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Benedict has already expressed regret for offending Muslims and said his remarks did not reflect his personal views, but he has not offered a complete apology as some have sought.
Still, his five-minute address Monday at a meeting with 22 foreign diplomats and representatives of Italian Muslim organizations - whom the pope greeted one-by-one, clasping their hands warmly - seemed to be well received by his guests at his vacation palace in the Alban Hills south of Rome.
"The Holy Father stated his profound respect for Islam. This is what we were expecting," Iraqi envoy Albert Edward Ismail Yelda said as he left the 30-minute meeting. "It is now time to put what happened behind and build bridges."
Nearly all the other envoys left without speaking to reporters. The embassies of Egypt and Turkey said their ambassadors would have no comment. The Iranian, Indonesian, Lebanese and Libyan embassies did not answer their phones.
Al-Jazeera, the Arab-language broadcaster, carried the pope's speech live.
Benedict touched on religion and violence, saying Christians and Muslims "must learn to work together ... to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence."
He quoted from a key document of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s stating that "although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries," both faiths must move on and work for "peace and freedom for all people."