Pope is Thanked by Muslim Leaders

The top religious adviser to Jordan’s king has thanked Pope Benedict XVI for expressing regret after a speech that many Muslims deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad, but complained the West still has a distorted view of Islam.

Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed delivered his assessment after giving Pope Benedict a tour of the biggest mosque in Amman, the Pontiff’s second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005.

The Pope is in Jordan on his first Middle East tour in which he hopes to improve strained ties with both Muslims and Jews.

He travelled to a memorial to Moses, met with an Iraqi Christian leader and urged the international community to do everything possible for the survival of the ancient Christian community in the war-torn country.

The Pope angered many in the Muslim world in 2006 when he quoted a Medieval text that characterised some of Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman”, particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith”.

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

Ghazi, who is also King Abdullah II’s cousin, thanked the Pope 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 lecture”. But the prince said Muslims had felt “hurt”.

Ghazi also complained that “distorted depictions” of Muhammad have long persisted in the West and were responsible “for much historical and cultural tension” between Christians and Muslims.

The Pope told the audience of religious leaders and government officials assembled at the white limestone King Hussein mosque 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”.