Pope meets Muslim diplomats

Pope meets Muslim diplomats

CASTEL GANDOLFO – Muslim diplomats were meeting yesterday with Pope Benedict XVI in the pontiff’s latest effort to mend relations after his remarks about Islam and violence ignited the Vatican’s most serious international crisis in decades.

Benedict’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the meeting, at the Vatican summer residence, was “certainly a sign that dialogue is returning to normal after moments of …misunderstanding.”He predicted that the encounter would lead to further steps toward calm, constructive dialogue.Since the September 12 speech on Islam, Benedict has said that his remarks were taken out of context and said he regretted that Muslims were offended.The Vatican said that diplomats from 21 predominantly Muslim countries and a representative of the Arab League were participating, along with leaders of Italy’s small Islamic community.Italian police cars started pulling up in the square outside the papal palace in the hill town of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, where Benedict is spending the last week of his summer holiday.A light rain was falling.Vatican Radio said that it would cover the meeting live, and the speeches were scheduled to be shown to journalists on closed-circuit Vatican TV.Cardinal Paul Poupard, a Frenchman who leads the Vatican’s efforts at dialogue between religions, said that the pope planned to meet personally with participants.Muslims in many cities around the world protested the remarks Benedict made at Regensburg University, where he once taught theology in his German homeland.Benedict quoted the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”Among the countries expected to send representatives were Iran, Iraq and Egypt.Also expected were diplomats from Indonesia, where Christian-Muslim tensions were further heightened last week by the execution of three Catholic militants.Benedict last month had appealed for the men’s lives to be spared.Turkey also accepted the invitation.Benedict hopes to go to Turkey in November, whose officials were among the first to vigourously protest the Regensburg remarks.Nampa-APFederico Lombardi, said the meeting, at the Vatican summer residence, was “certainly a sign that dialogue is returning to normal after moments of …misunderstanding.”He predicted that the encounter would lead to further steps toward calm, constructive dialogue.Since the September 12 speech on Islam, Benedict has said that his remarks were taken out of context and said he regretted that Muslims were offended.The Vatican said that diplomats from 21 predominantly Muslim countries and a representative of the Arab League were participating, along with leaders of Italy’s small Islamic community.Italian police cars started pulling up in the square outside the papal palace in the hill town of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, where Benedict is spending the last week of his summer holiday.A light rain was falling.Vatican Radio said that it would cover the meeting live, and the speeches were scheduled to be shown to journalists on closed-circuit Vatican TV.Cardinal Paul Poupard, a Frenchman who leads the Vatican’s efforts at dialogue between religions, said that the pope planned to meet personally with participants.Muslims in many cities around the world protested the remarks Benedict made at Regensburg University, where he once taught theology in his German homeland.Benedict quoted the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”Among the countries expected to send representatives were Iran, Iraq and Egypt.Also expected were diplomats from Indonesia, where Christian-Muslim tensions were further heightened last week by the execution of three Catholic militants.Benedict last month had appealed for the men’s lives to be spared.Turkey also accepted the invitation.Benedict hopes to go to Turkey in November, whose officials were among the first to vigourously protest the Regensburg remarks.Nampa-AP

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