Pope: Islam Quote Not My Views

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful from his popemobile, escorted by security guards, at the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday Sept. 20, 2006. AP

This article was written by CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey.


Pope Benedict XVI used his weekly audience in St Peter's Square Wednesday to try once again to extinguish the firestorm ignited by his quote a week ago that characterised Islam as a violent religion.

In an apparent effort to make light of the security threats, he arrived in a sun-drenched St. Peter's Square in an open vehicle, and did an extended tour of the crowd of tens of thousands before he spoke.

The pope has already issued an unprecedented public and personal apology for what he called his "misunderstood" remarks.

He stopped short of repeating that Wednesday, but did stress that the quote from a fourteenth century discussion that he made during a speech to his old university in the city of Regensburg, Germany last week did not represent his own views.

"In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the medieval emperor," the pope said. "I wished to explain that not religion and violence but religion and reason go together."

Speaking in English at one point, Benedict said: "I hope that my profound respect for world religions and for Muslims who worship the one God and who help promote peace, liberties and justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity is clear."

In what may be an indication of how seriously Benedict is taking the situation, the normal practice of providing an advance copy of the speech online for journalists accredited to the Vatican was dispensed with Wednesday, and transcripts were not available until after the pontiff spoke.

An Italian journalist with close ties to the Vatican said Benedict had written it personally.

The pope said his intention in Regensburg had been to encourage dialogue between religions.

The problem, according to some Vatican analysts, is that Benedict may be too much of an academic to realise just how his remarks are going to be interpreted by those outside the church.

Many in the audience Wednesday, however, were convinced the pope had made his feelings and meaning clear enough.

Carol Norberg, a visitor from Stevensville, Michigan, said she did not believe the pope had been expressing any ill-will towards Muslims. "I don't think he should have apologized more," she said, "because I don't think his intent was to offend."

Convincing the hardliners of the Muslim world of that, however, remains a problem no matter how often Benedict claims he was misunderstood.

Certainly dialogue is not on the agenda right now. To the contrary, the Vatican seemed to be surrounding the pontiff with an added layer of insulation from the outside world, in the form of increased security.

Parking was banned near side entrances to Vatican City, and there were reports of police sharpshooters positioned on nearby rooftops.

By Allen Pizzey
  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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