Pope Benedict has tried to calm Muslim anger over his comments on Islam. The head of the world’s one billion Catholics used his weekly prayer to say he was “deeply sorry” about the reaction to his remarks, but he stopped short of a retraction demanded by some Muslims.
“I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,” he told pilgrims at his summer residence. “These, in fact, were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thoughts. I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect,” he added.
The Pope has been under intense scrutiny amid angry reactions from throughout the Muslim world. Security has been tightened in response around the Vatican. The increased presence of “caribinieri” made many people feel aware that something was going on.
One woman said: “You can sense the fear in the air because there are three times as many police around than normal for a Sunday.” Others in Rome expressed frustration about the heightened state of alert. “I blame extremists in the Muslim world for taking things out of proportion,” one man said. “They always resort to violence when words would be so much better.”