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Pope plays "Bite and Blow" with Muslims
by Amin George Forji
2006-09-30 09:21:01
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Pope Benedict XVI on Monday tried desperately hard to clean up his own "mess", following his comments in Germany on September 12, which came in the form of a quote from a 14th Century Byzantine emperor that Prophet Mohammed only brought evil and inhuman things.

The quote went thus: "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." These remarks provoked worldwide angry protests from Muslims, thereby plunging the Catholic Church and the Islamic faith into loggerheads. To diffuse the row, the Pope organised a summit at his Vatican residence to engage in dialogue with Muslim leaders.

The summit was massively attended. Of the Muslim countries that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, only Sudan failed to show up. He told delegates attending that his remarks at Bavaria, Germany, were largely misunderstood and that his usage of a quote from the 14th Century Byzantine emperor did not, in any way, reflect his own personal opinion. He said the only reason he used the quote was to "explain that religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do."

"I would like today to stress my total and profound respect for all Muslims," the Pope said in his opening speech to the delegates. "Since the beginning of my pontificate, I have had occasion to express my wish to continue to establish bridges of friendship with believers of all religions, showing particularly my appreciation in the belief in dialogue between Muslims and Christians...the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims is, in effect, a vital necessity, on which a large part of our future depends," he added.

pope02_400_01Nevertheless, he seemed to have been steadfast with the philosophy behind his comments that sparked the row, "Christians and Muslims alike must reject all forms of violence and respect religious liberty," he reiterated. The Pope’s remorse was largely welcomed by the attending delegates, although a few thought his apology did not go far enough. Albert Yelda, from Iraq, said he was satisfied by the summit, "I think it is time to put what happened behind us and build bridges among all the civilisations."

Yelda’s positive reaction is in direct contrast to that of Ambassador Bambang, whose country, Indonesia, has the highest number of Muslims in he world. Speaking to BBC, he said, "We had hoped that there would have been a dialogue, but that was not the case…there was no dialogue between the Pope and the guests. In general, we were actually a bit surprised that the meeting was a short one."

Ahmed M. Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying, "Pope Benedict's apology is incomplete because it expresses remorse for Muslim anger to his questionable selection of quotations, rather than his own poor judgment in choosing them. Yet, we welcome it as a step in the right direction...Muslims are still waiting for this Pope to reclaim the reconciliatory path of Muslim-Catholic dialogue that Pope John Paul mastered; when he does, he'll find many willing Muslim partners just as Pope John Paul did."

Also submitted to OhmyNews International

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Asa2006-09-29 15:08:55
In the red corner, Muslims, weighing in at 1.4 billion believers, and in the blue corner, Catholics, with 1.1 billion members. I wonder when the Sikhs and Buddhists will stumble into this global fight.

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