File:Pope Benedictus XVI january,20 2006 (17).JPG

Pope Benedict XVI, January 2006

The Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy arose from a lecture delivered on 12 September 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The pope had previously served as professor of theology at the university, and his lecture was entitled "Faith, Reason and the University — Memories and Reflections". The lecture received much condemnation and praise from political and religious authorities. Many Islamic politicians and religious leaders registered their protest against what they said was an insulting mischaracterization of Islam,[1][2] contained in the quotation by the pope of the following passage:Template:Cquote

The passage originally appeared in the “Dialogue Held With A Certain Persian, the Worthy Mouterizes, in Anakara of Galatia[3], written in 1391 as an expression of the views of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, on such issues as forced conversion, holy war, and the relationship between faith and reason.

Pope Benedict XVI's lecture[edit | edit source]

Template:Muslims and controversies The lecture on "faith and reason", with references ranging from ancient Jewish and Greek thinking to Protestant theology and modern Secularity, focused mainly on Christianity and what Pope Benedict called the tendency to "exclude the question of God" from reason. Islam features in a part of the lecture: the Pope quoted strong criticism of Islam, which he described as being of a "startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded".

In three paragraphs at the beginning of the speech, Pope Benedict quoted from and discussed an argument made by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos in a 1391 dialogue with an "educated Persian" (who remained unnamed in the Pope's lecture), as well as observations on this argument made by Theodore Khoury, the scholar whose edition of Manuel II's dialogues the Pontiff was referencing. Pope Benedict used Manuel II's argument in order to draw a distinction between the Christian view, as expressed by Manuel II, that "not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature", and an Islamic view, as explained by Khoury, that God transcends concepts such as rationality, and his will, as Ibn Hazm stated, is not constrained by any principle, including rationality.

In part of his explication of this distinction, Pope Benedict referred to a specific aspect of Islam that Manuel II considered irrational, namely the practice of forced conversion. Specifically, the Pope (making clear that they were the Emperor's words, not his own) quoted Manuel II Palaiologos as saying: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only bad and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Pontiff was comparing the Islamic teaching that "There is no compulsion in religion" with what Pope Benedict described as the newer teaching that allowed "spreading the faith through violence"; the latter teaching being offered by Pope Benedict as an unreasonable one, on the belief that religious conversion should take place through the use of reason. His larger point here was that, generally speaking, in Christianity, God is understood to act in accordance with reason, while in Islam, God's absolute transcendence means that "God is not bound even by his own word", and can act in ways contrary to reason, including self-contradiction. At the end of his lecture, the Pope said, "It is to the great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures."

Key paragraphs[edit | edit source]

Quoted below are the three paragraphs (of sixteen total) which discuss Islam in Pope Benedict's lecture:


Translation differences[edit | edit source]

The original German text of the Pope's lecture as published at the Vatican website differs slightly in several respects from the English translation, despite both versions being official (though "provisional") Vatican versions. It is unknown whether this had an impact on perceptions of the speech.

Commenting on the quote from the Byzantine emperor, Pope Benedict states in the English translation of his lecture, "he addresses his Interlocutor with a startling brusqueness". According to the German text the Pope's original comment was "He addresses his interlocutor in an astoundingly harsh — to us surprisingly harsh — way" (wendet er sich in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form).[4]

This difference was corrected on 17 September. The official (though still "provisional") passage now reads: "he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded". (emphasis in original)

Another difference involves the use of the word "jihad", which is present in the German version but not in the English one: the original statement "The emperor touches on the theme of jihad, holy war" (kommt der Kaiser auf das Thema des Djihad, des heiligen Krieges zu sprechen) became in the English rendition "The emperor touches on the theme of the holy war."

A third difference involves the emperor's quote employed by the Pope: "...things only evil and inhuman...". What the Pope said, and which is found in the German text and verifiable with the audio from the lecture, was "... things only bad and inhumane ... ". The word used was "Schlechtes" (bad/wicked), whereas the English word "evil" would have corresponded to "Böses", a word the Pope did not use. Similarly, the German word "inhuman" (inhumane) was used, and not "unmenschlich" (inhuman).[5]

Initial reactions[edit | edit source]

Political leaders[edit | edit source]

Africa[edit | edit source]

  • Template:Flag – Foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit: " This was a very unfortunate statement and it is a statement that shows that there is a lack of understanding of real Islam. And because of this we are hopeful that such statements and such positions would not be stated in order to not allow tension and distrust and recriminations to brew between the Muslim as well as the west." The Vatican envoy was also summoned.[2]
  • Template:Flag – Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin of Somalia's Supreme Islamic Courts Council (ICU) urged Muslims "...wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion. Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim."[7]

Americas[edit | edit source]

  • Template:Flag - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Pontiff's "love of humanity," and said: "We all need to understand that offense can sometimes be taken when perhaps we don't see it." [8]

Asia[edit | edit source]

  • Template:Flag – The Guardian Council said the Pope was part of "a series of Western conspiracy against Islam" and had "linked Islam to violence and challenged Jihad at a time when he apparently closed his eyes to the crimes being perpetrated against defenseless Muslims by the leaders of power and hypocrisy under flag of Christianity and Jewish religion".[9] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that "Regarding the issue of the Pope's comments, we respect the pope and all of those who are interested in peace and justice."[10]
  • Template:FlagGovernment spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that "The Pope's remarks reflect his misunderstanding of the principles of Islam and its teachings that call for forgiveness, compassion and mercy," but also called on Iraqis not to harm "our Christian brothers."[11]
  • Template:Flag – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that the Pope's comments were "unwise and inappropriate," [12] but also that "Indonesian Muslims should have wisdom, patience, and self-restraint to address this sensitive issue....We need them so that harmony among people is not at stake."[13]
  • Template:Flag – Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, "The Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created. The Vatican must now take full responsibility over the matter and carry out the necessary steps to rectify the mistake."[2]
  • Template:Flag – President Pervez Musharraf, in a speech at the United Nations, called for legislation against "defamation of Islam."[14] Pakistan's parliament, issued a statement saying "The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Muhammad have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions." Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said, "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence."[15]
  • Template:FlagHamas leader and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya condemned the Pope's remarks: "In the name of the Palestinian people, we condemn the pope’s remarks on Islam. These remarks go against the truth and touch the heart of our faith." He also denounced the Palestinian attacks on churches in the West Bank and Gaza.[16]
  • Template:Flag – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: "I believe it is a must for (the Pope) to retract his erroneous, ugly and unfortunate remarks and apologise both to the Islamic world and Muslims. …I hope he rapidly amends the mistake he has made so as not to overshadow the dialogue between civilizations and religions." [17]

Australia[edit | edit source]

  • Template:FlagPrime Minister John Howard has backed the Pope's comments, saying that angry response from the Islamic world is "disproportionate, strange and disappointing". He also stated that Muslims should "move on", adding that, "I don't, at the moment, note terrorist groups killing people and invoking the authority of the Catholic Church".[19]

Europe[edit | edit source]

  • Template:Flag – Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "Whoever criticises the Pope misunderstood the aim of his speech… It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the Pope expressedly spoke in favour of this dialogue, which is something I also support and consider urgent and necessary."[21]
  • Template:Flag – Prime Minister Romano Prodi said: "There cannot be any controversy... Religious dialogue and respect for every faith are essential today and religion does not justify any type of violence."[22]
  • Template:Flag - The director of the Vatican press office stated: "Pope Benedict’s remarks about jihad may have been taken out of context but they were not an aberration. On the contrary, they stem from his thinking about Islam and the West in the one and a half years since he became Pope. It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful. Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father’s discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"[24][25]

International[edit | edit source]

  • 20px The Organisation of the Islamic Conference said "The OIC hopes that this sudden campaign does not reflect a new trend for the Vatican policy toward the Islamic religion… and it expects the Vatican to express its real vision of Islam", called it "character assassination of the Prophet Mohammed" and a "smear campaign."[26], and asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to address the Pope's remarks.[27]
  • Template:Flag – A EU Commission spokesman objected to "picking quotes out of context", and said the commission would not "clarify or interpret" the speech, because they consider it "a theological contribution to a theological debate." He added that "reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable."[28]

Religious leaders[edit | edit source]

Catholic[edit | edit source]

  • Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger said “We are faced with a media-driven phenomenon bordering on the absurd... If the game consists in unleashing the crowd’s vindictiveness on words that it has not understood, then the conditions for dialogue with Islam are no longer met.”[29]
  • Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Benedictine Confederation of the Order of Saint Benedict, said that the Pope used Manuel's dialogue with a Persian to make an indirect reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "I have heard he plans to write a letter to the Pope," Wolf added. "I think this would be a good opportunity to take up the gauntlet, so to speak, and really discuss things."[30]
  • Cardinal George Pell of Australia has backed the Pope's comments, saying he does not "rule out the link between Islam and violence" and that "The violent reaction in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears".[31]
  • Cardinal Secretary of State Bertone said: "Addressing the world's other religious faiths is part of the Church's mission... We must all return to the original source of human life, which is love."[32]

Other Christian[edit | edit source]

Muslim[edit | edit source]

  • Ali Bardakoğlu, the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate of Turkey, commented that the Pope's statements "were extraordinarily worrying, very unfortunate, both in the name of Christianity, and in the name of shared humanity," and called on Pope Benedict to either retract or apologize for his conduct. He added "if there is a religious antagonism in the West, it's the responsibility of the logic-ignoring Christian church", citing historical incidents of religious oppression in Europe and the Americas. He also implied that the Pope should consider cancelling his trip to Turkey that was originally planned for November 2006.[39] Bardakoğlu later admitted to not having read the Pope's lecture before making his statements.[40]
  • Mohammed Mahdi Akef from the Muslim Brotherhood said the remarks "threaten world peace" and "pour oil on the fire and ignite the wrath of the whole Islamic world to prove the claims of enmity of politicians and religious men in the West to whatever is Islamic."[41]
  • Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Egyptian Muslim cleric and head of Islamic Scholars' Association; " Our hands are outstretched and our religion calls for peace, not for war, for love not for hatred, for tolerance, not for fanaticism, for knowing each other and not for disavowing each other. We condemn this and we want to know the explanation of this and what is intended by this. We call on the pope, the pontiff, to apologise to the Islamic nation because he has insulted its religion and Prophet, its faith and Sharia without any justification."[43]
  • Ahmad Khatami, one of Iran's most influential clerics asked the Pope to "fall on his knees in front of a senior Muslim cleric and try to understand Islam."[44]
  • Aga Khan IV, leader of the Ismaili branch of Islam said: "I have two reactions to the pope's lecture: There is my concern about the degradation of relations and, at the same time, I see an opportunity. A chance to talk about a serious, important issue: the relationship between faith and logic"[45]

Jewish[edit | edit source]

  • In a letter to the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar criticized Benedict's remarks, writing: "our way is to honour every religion and every nation according to their paths, as it is written in the book of prophets: 'because every nation will go in the name of its Lord.'"[46]

Non-religious commentary[edit | edit source]

  • In an article published in CounterPunch, author Tariq Ali said, "The Bavarian is a razor-sharp reactionary cleric. I think he knew what he was saying and why. In a neo-liberal world suffering from environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, repression, a ‘planet of slums’ (in the graphic phrase of Mike Davis), the Pope chooses to insult the founder of a rival faith. The reaction in the Muslim world was predictable, but depressingly insufficient."[47]
  • A different view was taken by Christopher Hitchens, who wrote in "Fighting Words" for Slate web magazine that Pope Benedict "...has managed to do a moderate amount of harm—and absolutely no good—to the very tense and distraught discussion now in progress between Europe and Islam." Hitchens also presented what he feels is a problem with the focus of the Pope's speech with respect to Reason: " its new reactionary leader has really 'offended' the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon—reason—that we possess in these dark times. A fine day's work, and one that we could well have done without."[48]
  • Hans Köchler, head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck and a leading advocate of civilizational dialogue, wrote in a commentary: "In his lecture preaching the compatibility of reason and faith, Benedict XVI, the scholar, deliberately overlooks the fact that the insights of Greek philosophy – its commitment to the λόγος – have been brought to medieval Christian Europe by the great Muslim thinkers of the Middle Ages. What he calls the 'encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought' ... was, to a large extent, the result of the influence of Muslim philosophers – at a time when European Christians were totally ignorant of classical Greek philosophy."."[49]
  • Tariq Ramadan, an influential visiting fellow in the University of Oxford, said "Most did not read the pope's speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the pope had linked Islam and violence.. certain groups or governments manipulate crises of this kind as a safety valve for both their restive populations and their own political agenda.. the mass protests... end up providing a living proof that Muslims cannot engage in reasonable debate and that verbal aggression and violence are more the rule than the exception."[50]

Subsequent Vatican statements[edit | edit source]

Official Vatican declaration[edit | edit source]

On 16 September 2006, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, released a declaration explaining that the "position of the Pope concerning Islam is unequivocally that expressed by the conciliar document Nostra Aetate" and that "the Pope's option in favour of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is equally unequivocal."[51]


Response to official declaration[edit | edit source]

For many Muslim leaders, the declaration on 16 September was insufficient to rectify the situation. A representative for the Muslim Brotherhood rejected the Vatican statement, noting "Has he presented a personal apology for statements by which he clearly is convinced? No."[52] Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul-Azeez ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaikh, Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority, called the pope's declaration "lies", adding that they "show that reconciliation between religions is impossible."[53] On the other hand, the Muslim Council of Britain had a more favourable view of the declaration, issuing their own statement on 16 September that the Pope's expression of "sincere regret" was "a good first step."[54]

Pope's Angelus[edit | edit source]

On 17 September, before his regular weekly Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI stated the following:


Reactions to Angelus[edit | edit source]

The Angelus speech initially received a mixed yet predominantly negative response.[55] Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo, a Sunni institution, stated "We have no objection if the Pope holds another speech and declares publicly that what the Byzantine emperor had said was wrong. At the same time, the Pope has to apologize frankly and justify what he said," Mohammed el-Sayed Habib, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main Islamic opposition group originally, not long after the Pope's Sunday statements, called them a sufficient apology. However, later in the day, he retracted that statement, saying, "The Pope's comments that downplayed his earlier remarks are not enough. We will not accept anything less than an apology,"[56] Mohammed Habib also said: "It does not rise to the level of a clear apology and, based on this, we're calling on the Pope of the Vatican to issue a clear apology that will decisively end any confusion.[57] This sentiment was shared by the governments of Malaysia ("inadequate to calm the anger")[58] and Jordan ("a step forward", but "not sufficient")[59] , by Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydin ("you either have to say this 'I'm sorry' in a proper way or not say it at all. Are you sorry for saying such a thing or because of its consequences?") and scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who called for a "peaceful international day of rage" on his popular TV show on Al-Jazeera: "[The Pope's latest statements] were no apology. They were an accusation against Muslims that they didn't understand his words."[60]

Later comments were more favourable of the Pope. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "We respect the Pope and all those interested in peace and justice," [61] and said he accepted the Vatican view that the pontiff’s words had been "misinterpreted" and "taken out of context". [62] Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ahmad Badavi said: "I suppose we could accept this. We hope that there would be no other statements that would anger Muslims." [63] Ali Bardakoğlu, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate said that Benedict’s "expression of sadness is a sign that he would work for world peace." [64] Australian Muslim leader Ameer Ali said Australian Muslims must "accept the Pope's apology" over remarks that offended Islam and "move on". [65] Filipino Muslims expressed support for Pope Benedict's apology and blamed certain media outlets for increasing the tensions between Muslims and Catholics.[66]

Diplomatic initiative[edit | edit source]

On September 25 2006, Pope Benedict XVI held an audience with Muslim diplomats, ambassadors of Muslim countries and members of the Consulta Islamica, the Italian government appointed consultative body on Islamic affairs. The meeting was an effort to mend relations with the Muslim community. Pope Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the meeting at the Pope's summer residence was "certainly a sign that dialogue is returning to normal after moments of … misunderstanding."[67] During the session, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his conviction that the dialogue between Muslims and Christians is “a vital necessity” for the good of a world marked by relativism, one that “excludes the transcendence and universality of reason.” [68] At this meeting, Pope Benedict expressed "all the esteem and the profound respect that (he has) for Muslim believers."[69] Among the ambassadors invited were those from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, as well as many other nations and Islamic groups.[70]

Change of text[edit | edit source]

Pope Benedict has taken another step to placate anger in the Islamic world over his remarks on holy war, making additions to his original text by re-affirming that a quotation from a 14th century Byzantine emperor was not his personal opinion. The original text said the emperor's remark was made "somewhat brusquely." The new version says that it was made with "a brusqueness that we find unacceptable." Pope Benedict added in a footnote, "In the Muslim world, this quotation has unfortunately been taken as an expression of my personal position, thus arousing understandable indignation. I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Quran, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion." He said he cited the text as part of an examination of the "relationship between faith and reason."[71]

Open letters from top Muslim clerics[edit | edit source]

On October 12, 2006, 38 top Muslim scholars and clerics, including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Oman, as well as clerics and academics from the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Europe and North America, published an Open Letter to the Pope.[72] All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories. The 38 signatories to the letter declare that they accept the Pope's "personal expression of sorrow and assurance that the controversial quote did not reflect his personal opinion" and responded to some of the main substantive issues raised in the Pope's treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian,” including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam.[73]

The open letters also provided a surprising answer to Manuel II Paleologus' question, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." It is: Template:Cquote

On October 11, 2007, one year after the release of the open letter to the Pope, a larger group of 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals sent another open letter, titled A Common Word Between Us and You, to Pope Benedict and the leaders of other Christian denominations. This letter emphasized that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and share many values, including living in peace with one's neighbors.[74]

Protests, attacks and threats[edit | edit source]

Security has been discreetly stepped up around and inside the Vatican City, because of concerns about the possibility of acts of violence.[75] Thousands of people took part in many protests. [76]

In the West Bank city of Nablus, a Greek Orthodox and an Anglican Church were fire-bombed by a group called the Lions of Monotheism who said they were carried out to protest the pope's speech.[77] A Greek Orthodox church was also attacked in Gaza City. [78]Amira Hass has suggested that the attacks may have been carried out by agents provocateurs, possibly the Shin Bet.[79]

Several organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and the Mujahideen Shura Council threatened in a joint statement: "you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere. ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose the jizya tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (being killed by) the sword. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the Mujahideen."[80][81]

Employees of Ankara's Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, the state body that organizes Muslim worship in Turkey, asked the authorities on September 19th to open legal proceedings against Pope Benedict XVI and to arrest him when he visits the country in November 2006. They said the Pontiff had violated Turkish laws upholding freedom of belief and thought by "insulting" Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. [82]

Outside Westminster Cathedral, on September 18th 2006, around a hundred protestors held banners which included calls for the Pope's execution, "Pope go to Hell" and "Jesus is the slave of Allah", "Islam will conquer Rome," and "May Allah curse the Pope." [83][84]

The Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan has issued a Fatwa asking the Muslim community to kill Pope Benedict for his "blasphemous statement" about the Prophet Mohammad.[85]

Nun killed[edit | edit source]

On 17 September 2006 two Somali gunmen shot and killed a 65 year-old Italian nun, Sister Leonella Scogbati, working at the Austrian-run children's hospital in the city of Mogadishu, with her Somali bodyguard.[86] A senior Somali Islamist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "There is a very high possibility the people who killed her were angered by the Catholic Pope's recent comments against Islam"; however, he offered no specific evidence for that motive [87]. Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, member of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, said there was a "concrete possibility" that the murder of the nun was "a reprisal for the Pope’s remarks on Islam".[88] Somali Islamist officials vowed to punish the killers, and two men have been arrested.[89]

Attacks on Christians in Iraq[edit | edit source]

In Iraq, the flags of Germany, Israel, and the United States, and Christian crosses and effigies of Pope Benedict were burned in Basra.[90]

Iraq has one of the largest Christian minority in the middle east, where Assyrians number about 1 million. Since the Pope's comments, several churches have been bombed. A previously unknown Baghdad-based group, Kataab Ashbal Al Islam Al Salafi (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions) threatened to kill all Christians in Iraq if the Pope does not apologize to Muhammad within three days.[91] Christian Leaders in Iraq have asked their parishioners not to leave their homes, after two Christians were stabbed and killed in Baghdad.[92]

There have been reports of writing in church doors stating "If the Pope does not apologise, we will bomb all churches, kill more Christians and steal their property and money." [93]

The Iraqi militia Jaish al-Mujahedin (Holy Warriors' Army) announced its intention to "destroy their cross in the heart of Rome… and to hit the Vatican."[94]

Despite the Pope's comments dying down in the media, attacks on Assyrian Christians continued and on October 9, Islamic extremist group kidnapped priest Paulos Iskander. The relatives of a Christian priest who was beheaded 3 days later in Mosul, have said that his Muslim captors had demanded his church condemn the pope's recent comments about Islam and pay a $350,000 ransom. [95]

Sura 2 controversy[edit | edit source]

Another point of contention, widely covered in Arab media [96][97][98][99], but much less so in Western media[100], was the Pope's assessment that sura #2, which includes the verse "There is no compulsion in religion", was "one of the suras of the early period, when Mohamed was still powerless and under threat", and that instructions "concerning holy war" had come later.

Many scholars of Islam have taken this as a classification of the sura as stemming from the earlier Meccan period and have contradicted the lecture by pointing out that sura #2 was given in various stages but that this ayat was revealed after Muhammad's hijra from Mecca, during the Madinan period, the final stage of the quranic revelation[101]. On the other hand, some analysts placed the sura in the "early, Madinan period, when the prophet was a refugee, without an army."[102]

Assessment of the lecture's purpose[edit | edit source]

In contrast to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy - which is now deemed a precursor to the controversy over the Pope's lecture - the media focus was not on the issues of free speech or injured religious sensitivities. Underlying the widely talked about question of whether or not the Pope should apologize, and whether or not his subsequent statements even constituded an apology, several competing and separate interpretations of his intentions have been proffered. These are, broadly and in no particular order:

  • The lecture was not directed at Islam at all and the incendiary passages were purely circumstantial to the lecture's real intention, which was to counter the demotion of theology in the university environment in particular and of faith in a society plagued by postmodern relativism & irrationality in general.[103][104][105]
  • The presence of the controversial remark in the Pope's lecture is explainable by the possibility that, in front of his old scholarly colleagues, he fell back into his role as a university theologian, showing that he is still inexperienced at operating under the eyes of the worldwide public. A temporary inattention by the Pope's advisors, compounded by a recent reshuffling inside the Vatican's hierarchy, allowed a remark to slip through that would normally have been weeded out.[106][107] However, a member of the pontifical curia is reported to have indeed given "the advice to delete the controversial section."[108]
  • Pope Benedict's lecture was a "calculated risk," a move designed to win the hearts of the Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church who are surrounded by Muslims and whom Pope Benedict would be visiting in November, 2006. Given what he sees as close theological affinities between these two churches and other personal characteristics specific to Pope Benedict (traditional liturgy; criticism of scientific interpretation of scripture), "some form of reunion is not only feasible; from Benedict's point of view, it is highly desirable."[109] [110]
  • Pope Benedict's lecture portends a parting from the Vatican's previous policies on dialogue with Islam, away from promoting harmony at all costs towards more reciprocity; that is, he wants the Muslim world opened up for Christian missions in the same way that Europe is open to Muslims and conversion out of Islam to be a legal or social possibility. In this view, the position of Christians in Muslim-majority countries must be improved. [111]
  • Pope Benedict has given up hope that Islam will reform; he now wants to take on Islam in Europe in the same way his predecessor took on Communism. [112]
  • The Pope wants to challenge Islam to clarify its position on violence; past, present and future, as did the Church by amending doctrine & apologizing for past atrocities, and spark a similar reaction within Islam against the recent ascent of violent strains within its fold. [113][114][115]
  • The Pope is challenging those who think that all religions are equally unreasonable, to prefer and support the religion that is most conducive to creating peace and a community of reasonable men (implicily: Catholicism, or Christianity), even if they do not believe in this religion themselves. [116]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. BBC Article. In quotes: Muslim reaction to Pope last accessed September 17, 2006
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 BBC News Article:Pope sorry for offending Muslims, last accessed Septermber 17, 2006 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "BBC1" defined multiple times with different content
  3. "The Pope, Jihad and "Dialogue"", The American Thinker, 19 September, 2005
  4. "Lecture of the Holy Father - Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections", Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 12 September, 2006 Template:De icon
  5. "Vorschau der Vokabeldatei 'Englisch - christlich' ", Langenscheid, 12 September, 2005 Template:De icon
  6. "Ambassador recalled over Pope row". Agence France-Presse, 17 September 2006.
  7. "Somali cleric calls for pope's death", The Age, 17 September 2006
  8. "Muslims seek fuller apology". The Boston Globe, 20 September 2006.
  9. "Guardian Council condemns Pope's anti-Islam statement". IRNA, 17 September 2006
  10. Iranian president expresses respect for pope, The Jerusalem Post, September 19, 2006
  11. "Iraq calls for calm after Pope's remarks". Reuters, 16 September 2006
  12. "Pope says he's sorry about strong reaction, says speech didn't reflect his personal opinion", The Jakarta Post, 17 September 2006
  13. Amid criticism and violence the first balanced views about the Pope’s speech appear
  14. Pakistan calls for ban on 'defamation of Islam' in veiled attack on pope,AFP, 19 September 2006
  15. "Pakistan's Parliament Condemns Pope",Fox News, 17 September 2006
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. "Turkish PM urges pope to apologise for Islam remarks",, 16 September, 2006
  18. Template:Cite web
  19. Interview with John Howard
  20. Template:Cite news
  21. "Merkel defends Pope amid Muslim fury", Reuters, 16 September 2006
  22. "Prodi, religions must be committed to Dialogue", Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 16 September, 2006
  23. "Le ministre suisse de l'Intérieur défend Benoît XVI", Associated Press, 17 September 2006 Template:Fr icon
  24. "Homily on faith, logic and holy war was seen as a slur on Islam", The Times, 16 September 2006
  25. "Islam not condemned in papal speech, Vatican spokesman says", Catholic World News, 13 September 2006
  26. "Pope Offends Muslims Worldwide", ABC News, 15 September 2006
  27. " Muslim countries ask U.N. Human Rights Council to address Pope's remarks", AP, 18 September 2006
  28. " Brussels defends Pope's freedom of expression", EU Observer, 18 September 2006
  29. "Many Muslims Say Pope’s Apology Is Inadequate", New York Times, 18 September 2006
  30. "Pope invites Muslims to dialogue, slams 'holy wars'", ANTARA, 13 September 2006
  31. Cardinal adds to islam-violence debate
  32. "Church has a role to guide other faiths: Cardinal Bertone", Catholic World News, 13 September 2006
  33. "Christian Leader Joins Muslims in Denouncing Pope's Remarks", JAP, 16 September 2006
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  40. "Türkischer Kritiker hatte Rede nicht gelesen" Der Spiegel, September 16, 2006 Template:De icon
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  44. "Pope tells Muslims he is 'deeply sorry' for crisis", Malaysia Star, September 17, 2006
  45. SPIEGEL interview with Aga Khan - Der Spiegel. 12 October, 2006
  46. "Sephardic chief rabbi criticizes pope's remarks", Haaretz, 17 September, 2006
  47. Papal insults – A Bavarian Provocation by Tariq Ali for CounterPunch. 17 September, 2006
  48. Papal BullJoseph Ratzinger's latest offense. by Christopher Hitchens for Slate. 18 September, 2006
  49. Religion, Reason and Violence: Pope Benedict XVI and Islam - Hans Köchler, Statement for the International Progress Organization. 16 September, 2006
  50. A struggle over Europe's religious identity - Tariq Ramadan for the International Herald Tribune. 20 September, 2006
  51. "Traduzione In Lingua Inglesse", Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 16 September, 2006
  52. "Pope statement not enough — Muslim Brotherhood", Reuters, 16 September 2006
  53. "«Hässliche, unglückliche Äußerungen»: Erdogan fordert Entschuldigung des Papstes", Netzeitung, 17 September, 2006 Template:De icon
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  68. ASIANEWS Pope: dialogue between Muslims and Christians “a vital necessity”
  69. "Address to the Ambassadors of Countries with a Muslim majority and Muslim communities in Italy" by Pope Benedict XVI, 25 September 2006
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  71. Pope makes additions to text on Islam
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  78. "Five churches bombed and attacked" Associated Press 16 September 2006
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  82. " Turk workers urge pope's arrest" CNN, 19 September 2006
  83. The Pope must die, says Muslim
  84. Just outside Westminster Cathedral today...
  85. LET issues fatwa to kill the pope. International terrorism monitor, paper no.133, by B.Raman. 2 October 2006
  86. "Gunmen Slay Italian Nun", AFP, 17 September 2006
  87. "Nun's death may be linked to Pope: Somali Islamist", Reuters
  88. "Nun shot dead as Pope fails to calm militant Muslims", Timesonline 18 September 2006
  89. "Somalia Islamists vow to punish nun's killers", gulfnews 19 September 2006
  90. In pictures: Fresh anti-Pope protests, BBC News
  91. "Christian Killed in Iraq in Response to Pope's Speech: Islamic Website", Assyrian International News Agency, 16 September 2006
  92. "Second Assyrian Christian Killed in Retaliation for Pope's Remarks", Assyrian International News Agency, 17 September 2006
  93. Violence against Christians grows in Iraq, Ekklesia, 29 September 2006
  94. "Vatikan verschärft Sicherheitsvorkehrungen", Der Spiegel, 16 September 2006 Template:De icon
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  96. The other side of the coin. What's after the Pope's lecture? By Saifuddin Tajuddin. Al Sharq Al Awsat, 28 September 2006 (in Arabic)
  97. The Pope and his speech. From infallibility to naïve simplification…!, by Atallah Muhajirani, Al Sharq Al Awsat, 26 September 2006 (in Arabic)
  98. The challenge of Vatican's leader, by Al Sadiq Al Mahdi, Al Sharq Al Awsat, 24 September 2006 (in Arabic)
  99. The Pope, the Emperor and the Persian sage, by Amir Tahiri, Al Sharq Al Awsat, 22 September 2006 (in Arabic)
  100. Serious errors of both fact and judgment, by Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 16 September 2006
  101. Lapsus ratisbonæ, by Pablo Tornielli. (Spanish)
  102. The Pope’s speech: lending Islam a helping hand to avoid a downward spiral by Samir Khalil Samir, sj, 15 September 2006
  103. 'Pope Calls West Divorced From Faith, Adding a Blunt Footnote on Jihad', New York Times, 13 September 2006]
  104. 'Benedict XVI's background is theological, not diplomatic', Jerusalem Post, 18 September 2006]
  105. 'The Pope Was Right', Los Angeles Times, 20 September 2006]
  106. 'Lost in Translation', The Age, 18 September 2006]
  107. Pope´s speech 'a gaffe' says Bishop
  108. 'Papst war vorab gewarnt', Focus, 23 September 2006]
  109. Sailing to Byzantium, International Herald Tribune, 29 September 2006
  110. Calculated Risk, Deutsche Welle, 27 September 2006
  111. 'Pope Benedict's long mission to confront radical Islam', The Guardian, 17 September 2006]
  112. 'Faith, Reason and Politics: Parsing the Pope's Remarks', Stratfor, 19 September 2006]
  113. 'The Pope Tackles Faith and Terrorism', Time, 13 September 2006]
  114. ' Vatican experts say Pope unrepentant', The Independent, 19 September 2006]
  115. 'The Pope, Jihad, and “Dialogue”', Andrew Bostom, 19 September 2006]
  116. 'Socrates or Muhammad? ', The Weekly Standard, 10 October 2006]

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


Islamic responses[edit | edit source]

Template:Benedict XVI

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