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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Pope regrets Muslim speech 3 years ago

AMMAN, Jordan — The top religious
adviser to Jordan’s king thanked Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday for
expressing regret after a speech three years ago 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 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 in 2006 when he quoted a Medieval text
that characterized some of 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.

Ghazi, 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 majorities.”

Benedict 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 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 take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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 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.

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

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.

Despite 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