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Pope says sorry to Muslims

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI said he was “deeply sorry” that Muslims were offended by his reference to a historical criticism of Islam, which he said does not reflect his own opinion.

The Pope’s remarks to pilgrims at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on September 17 were his first public reaction to a wave of Muslim indignation over a university lecture he delivered in Germany.

Several Muslim leaders reacted positively to the Pope’s comments, which were carried live on some Arab TV networks. Other Islamic groups said a fuller apology was needed.

In Somalia, authorities were investigating whether the killing of an Italian nun was related to the controversy over the papal speech.

Criticism of the Pope came from Muslim leaders and representatives in many countries, including Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia.

The Vatican’s new secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, issued another statement on September 16 saying the Pope respected Islam and its followers, and was unequivocally in favour of interfaith dialogue.

Much attention was focused on the Pope’s planned trip to Turkey from November 28-December 1. It would be the Pope’s first trip to a Muslim country.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said there were no plans to change the Government’s plans to host Pope Benedict.

Read the full text of Pope Benedict’s speech which provoked the uproar:

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