Benedict XVI Apologizes for Muslim Offense

Makes Invitation to Dialogue

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 17, 2006 ( Benedict XVI said that he is "deeply sorry" for the harsh reaction to his recent remarks about Islam, and invited Muslims to open and honest dialogue.

In the Pope's first public address since his trip to Bavaria, he said today: "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims."

"These in fact were a quotation from a Medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought," the Holy Father said from the balcony of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo to the crowds gathered in the rain to pray the Angelus.

In his address on Tuesday in Regensburg, the Bishop of Rome quoted a dialogue on Christianity and Islam between Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a Persian, which took place in Ankara around 1391.

The Pontiff quoted what the emperor said regarding the question of the jihad (Holy War): "Show me just what Mohammed 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."


Today Benedict XVI pointed to the statement released Saturday by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone "in which he explained the true meaning of my words."

"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect," the Pope said.

In his statement, Cardinal Bertone explained that "the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way.

"He simply used it as a means to undertake -- in an academic context, and as evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text -- certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come."

The Arab television channel Al-Jazeera transmitted live the Pope's words during the Angelus.