By Steve Jalsevac

See the full text of the Pope’s Sept. 25 talk to Muslim leaders at

Excerpts from significant articles:

  Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim diplomats Monday that “our future” depends on good relations between followers of both faiths as he sought to put to rest anger over his recent remarks about Islam and violence.

After his five-minute speech, in a salon in the papal palace in the Alban Hills, Benedict, greeted each envoy one by one. He clasped their hands warmly and chatted for a few moments with each of the diplomats.

“The circumstances which have given risen [sic] to our gathering are well known,” Benedict said, referring to his remarks on Islam in a Sept. 12 speech at Regensburg, Germany. He did not dwell on the contested remarks, which set off protests around the Muslim world.

“The Holy Father stated his profound respect for Islam. This is what we were expecting,” said Iraqi envoy Albert Edward Ismail Yelda as he left the half-hour meeting. “It is now time to put what happened behind and build bridges.”

The Vatican and much of the Muslim world share some important goals for each side, including the battle against legalized abortion.

  Meeting with a group of Muslim clerics as well as several ambassadors from mostly Islamic countries today, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his desire to continue down the road of sincere dialogue in order to foster peace in the world.

The Pontiff… told the leaders that the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, “cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.” ….the Pope noted his efforts at continuing the dialogue from the beginning of his Pontificate. Benedict specifically pointed out his comments at a meeting he had with some Muslim Leaders in Cologne at the very beginning of his Pontificate, last August.Â

“Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends,” the Pope said at that time.

Though subtle, the Holy Father also noted some areas which concern many Christians in their dealings with the Muslim world. He noted that it was a requirement of Christian and Muslim leaders to, “guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence.” He also recalled the words of Pope John Paul II regarding the need for “reciprocity” between the cultures.Â

According to the Vatican, participants in the meeting included heads of mission from Kuwait, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, Albania, the Arab League, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Iran and Azerbaijan. Also present were 14 members of the Islamic Council of Italy and representatives from the Italian Islamic Cultural Center and the Office of the World Muslim League.

Initial indications are that the meeting was well received by Muslim leaders.Â

Iraqi ambassador, Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, told the press that he is ready to move on. “I pray to almighty God the crisis will be behind us,” he told reporters. “We need to sit together—Muslims, Christians, Jews and the rest of the world, the rest of religions, in order to find common ground for peaceful coexistence.”

Speaking to Reuters, Mario Scialoja, an adviser to the Italian section of the World Muslim League, said that the Holy Father offered a, “very good and warm speech.”

  The president of the European Commission has expressed disappointment that European leaders failed to defend Pope Benedict XVI over his recent remarks about Islam.

Jose Manuel Barroso said that while Europe must take the threat of Islamic extremists “very seriously”, it must not confuse tolerance with “a form of political correctness” that puts others’ values above its own.

“I was disappointed that there weren’t more European leaders who said, ‘Of course the Pope has the right to express his point of view’,” Barroso was quoted as saying in Germany’s Welt am Sonntag weekly on Sunday.

“We must defend our values.”

“The problem is not the comments of the Pope, but the reaction of the extremists,” Barroso said.

  The Catholic Church of Bangladesh, one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world, has come out in defence of the Pope in the wake of the controversy surrounding his address in Regensburg (Germany)
  In a statement to the Bangladeshi press, the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, Mgr Paulinus Costa, said that the Pope had no intention of offending Muslim or their religion. “His quotation was not interpreted correctly,” the prelate said.

Unlike other predominantly-Muslim countries, protests in Bangladesh against the Pope’s speech in Germany did not degenerate into violence.

TOLERANCE MUST FLOW TWO WAYS – Rex Murphy – Globe and Mail
  The second point uniting these episodes, the point that I think the more consequential, is the expectation from some Muslim authorities that their sensibilities and beliefs are owed, as of right, a singular respect and immunity from all negative comment and remark. It is more than curious that those who don’t believe in Islam should be expected to uphold the same codes of respect as those who do.

There attends this expectation, sometimes phrased as a demand, a further one: that should “offence” be taken, then whatever violence should ensue—be it rioting, the burning of churches, or death threats—must be laid at the door of the parties who “insult” Islam, not those who undertake violence in response.

These considerations are troubling. First, because the respect and privilege claimed by some Muslims is not afforded religions other than their own in their societies. There is a magnificent mosque in Rome close to the Vatican. Do I need to say there is no basilica in Mecca? One religion should not claim rights it will not afford to all others.

A SCHOLARLY PAPAL ADDRESS THAT WASN’T – Haroon Siddiqui – Toronto Star
  (Example of a typical Toronto Star anti-Christian column. This is one of the moreÂideologically slantedÂarticles published at a time when the public is now becoming far more familiar with Islamic history and Koranic verses that explicitly call for the killing and repression of non-Muslims and Muslims who do not accept violent Jihad or who wish to convert to another faith. Siddiqui, editorial page editor of Canada’s largest circulation daily by far, has been an apologist for Canadians charged with terrorist activity –

The rise of Muslim anger is running parallel to the rise of right-wing, anti-Islamism in the West. One feeds the other. Both are keen on a confrontation.

He (the Pope) said Christianity is “the profound encounter of faith and reason,” and implied that Islam isn’t, even though the Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes reason.

The Pope had a right to quote the anti-Islamic rant of a 14th-century Byzantine king. We have the right to question his judgment in doing so.

Manuel II was a Christian warrior entrenched in protracted warfare against the Muslim Ottomans. It’s no surprise that he demonized the Prophet Muhammad. But why would the Pope recycle that hate tract?

Because he wanted to echo the emperor’s belief that jihad — which the Pope translated as “holy war”— is “unreasonable.”

But the Qur’an does not speak of war as holy, Islamic scholar Mahmoud Ayoub, formerly of Toronto and now professor at Temple University, said in a phone interview. Rather jihad is struggle, mostly spiritual, even if it has often been invoked militarily. Benedict, a theological scholar, “should know that.”

John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said the Pope was on shaky ground elsewhere as well.

Benedict quoted, without question, Manuel’s complaint about Muhammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” But, Esposito told me, that “remark is simply inaccurate.” The Qur’an and Muhammad recognized only “the right to defend Islam against those who threatened and attacked Muslims.”

The Pope said that the Qur’anic line “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) was revealed in the early years of Muhammad’s prophethood in Mecca when he “was still powerless,” but that, when he ruled Medina, the injunction was overtaken by others concerning holy war.

“Both these statements are incorrect,” said Esposito. “2:256 is not an early verse but from a later period, and the interpretation of jihad was developed years after the Prophet’s death.”

In relying on populist clichés of Islam, the Pope treads on the same turf as Islamophobes. It is not surprising that they are the loudest in defending him.

“Hatred of Islam brings together people who are usually at daggers drawn,” writes Karen Armstrong, noted British author and a former nun.

If the Pope sincerely believes, as did Manuel II, that Islam is a religion of the sword, what of his selective silence on the sword-wielding Christians of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition? What of the church’s complicity in the genocide of the aboriginal people of the Americas? And the Vatican’s relations with Nazi Germany?

One legacy of this sad episode is that he has weakened himself immeasurably in his declared mission: advancing interfaith dialogue and demanding greater freedom of religion for Christians in Muslim nations.