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Jordan: Official thanks pope for expressing regret

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The top religious adviser to Jordan’s king
thanked Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday for his expression of regret
after a 2006 speech that many Muslims deemed insulting to Islam’s
Prophet Muhammad.

Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed spoke after giving
Benedict a tour of the biggest mosque in Jordan’s capital, Amman, his
second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005.
Benedict is in Jordan on his first Middle East tour in which he hopes
to improve strained ties with both Muslims and Jews.

The pope
angered many in the Muslim world three years ago when he quoted a
Medieval text that characterized some of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad’s
teachings as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by
the sword the faith.

Shortly after giving the speech, Benedict said he regretted the comments offended Muslims.

who is also King Abdullah II’s cousin, thanked Benedict for the
clarification he issued after the speech that the views did not reflect
his own opinion but were instead “simply a citation in an academic

Benedict told the audience of religious leaders and
government officials assembled at the King Hussein mosque Saturday that
Muslims and Christians must strive to be seen as faithful worshippers
of God “because of the burden of our common history” that has often
been marked by misunderstanding.

The pope said it is often
“ideological manipulation of religion sometimes for political ends that
is the real catalyst for tension and division and at times even
violence in society.”

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said
the pope did not pray during his visit to the mosque but did stop in a
“respectful moment of reflection.” He was not asked to take his shoes
off when he entered the mosque, which is customary for Muslims, said

Ghazi, who was dressed in a white robe and red and
white-checkered headscarf, asked the pope to speak up for Muslim
minorities in parts of the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa who he
said were “hard-pressed by Christian minorities.”

expressed “deep respect” for Islam on Friday, when he arrived in Jordan
on the first day of his Mideast tour, but his comments in 2006 continue
to fuel criticism by some Muslims.

Jordan’s hard-line Muslim
Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, said Friday that
they were boycotting the pope’s visit because he did not issue a public
apology ahead of time as they demanded.

The pope has also had
strained ties with Jews that he hopes to improve during his Mideast
tour, which will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian

Benedict spoke of an “inseparable bond” between the
Catholic Church and the Jewish people Saturday when he visited Mount
Nebo, the wind-swept hill overlooking the Jordan valley from where the
Bible says Moses saw the Promised Land.

“May our encounter today
inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred scripture and a
desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians
and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace
to which the word of God calls us,” said the German-born Benedict.

pope sparked outrage among many Jews earlier this year when he revoked
the excommunication of an ultraconservative bishop who denies the

Benedict’s forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism and
acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes have softened Jewish anger over the
bishop. But another sore point has been World War II Pope Pius XII,
whom Benedict has called a “great churchman.” Jews and others say he
failed to do all he could to stop the extermination of European Jews.

the disputes, Jewish leaders say Benedict, who served in the Hitler
Youth corps as a young man in Germany and then in the army before
deserting near the end of the war, has an excellent record in fighting
anti-Semitism. He has already visited synagogues in Cologne, Germany,
and New York and is expected at Rome’s central synagogue later this