In an unprecedented move the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has met envoys from some 20 Muslim countries to try to end the uproar caused by his comments on Islam. Pope Benedict XVI told those present he had a “total and profound” respect for Islam and described inter-faith dialogue as vital.
He also said he was deeply sorry about the violent reaction to his previous statements. Pope Benedict said he was “profoundly convinced that in the current world situation, it is imperative that Christians and Muslims engage with one another in order to address the numerous challenges that present themselves to humanity”.
“Especially those concerning the defence and promotion of the dignity of the human person and the rights ensuing from that dignity,” he added. This was the Pontiff’s fourth attempt to bring to an end the row that followed his citing of a medieval text referring to the use of violence to spread the Islamic faith.
A Christian Iraqi envoy, Albert Edward Ismail Yilda, was encouraged by the meeting. “The Holy Father once again emphasised his profound respect to all Muslims around the world and to the Muslim religion and he requested that we have to build bridges and respect each other,” he said. And a member of Italy’s Muslim community said he felt the Pope’s words would enable the matter to be brought to a close.