Pope has regret, but offers no apology

n Vatican says Muslims around the globe were offended by his words.

BY FRANCES D’EMILIO

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI “sincerely regrets” offending Muslims with his reference to an obscure medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam’s founder as “evil and inhuman,” the Vatican said Saturday.

But the statement stopped short of the apology demanded by Islamic leaders around the globe, and anger among Muslims remained intense. Palestinians attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza over the pope’s remarks Tuesday in a speech to university professors Germany.

In a broader talk rejecting any religious motivation for violence, Benedict cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

The pontiff didn’t endorse that description, but he didn’t question it, and his words set off a firestorm of protests across the Muslim world.

The new Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the pope’s position on Islam is unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that says the church “esteems” Muslims.

Benedict “thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions,” Bertone said in a statement.

He noted that earlier during his German trip, Benedict warned “secularized Western culture” against holding contempt for any religion or believers.

Bertone said the pontiff sought in his university speech to condemn all religious motivation for violence, “from whatever side it may come.” But the pope’s words only seemed to fan rage.

Bertone’s statement, released Saturday by the Vatican press office, failed to satisfy critics, although British Muslim leaders said it was a welcome step.