Pope Doesn´t Quite Apologize to Muslims

In his weekly speech outside the Vatican today, Pope Benedictus XVI related to the Muslim outrage at his recent comments against Mohammed, expressing sorrow at the Muslims' reaction to his words.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 1:52 PM

The Pope did not apologize outright, as Muslims demanded, for his remarks last Tuesday implying that Mohammed's teachings were evil and inhuman.

Instead, he said he was "deeply sorry" over the reaction to his words. He added his hope that the statement issued by the Vatican yesterday would suffice to explain his intentions.

Yesterday's statement said the Pope regretted that Muslims had been offended and that his comments had been misinterpreted. The Pope "sincerely regrets," the statement said, "that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful and [were] interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions."

In today's speech, the Pope said he respects the Muslim religion, and that the statements he quoted by a 14th-century Emperor against Mohammed in no way expresses his own feelings - eliciting applause from the crowd.

Headlines around the world blared out Muslim fury at the Pope's remarks, and at least five churches in the Palestinian Authority were targeted by Arabs on Friday and Saturday. Two more churches, in Tubas and Tul Karem, were torched and heavily damaged early Sunday morning. One Islamic terrorist group threatened to blow up all the churches in Gaza, and another one threatened to murder the Pope and "break your crosses in your home."

In Somalia, east of Kenya, an Italian nun and her bodyguard were murdered by unidentified gunmen in a hospitali in Mogadishu. It is suspected that the attack was motivated by Moslem anger at the Pope's remarks.

Threats Against Jerusalem
Radical Islamic leader Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, took advantage of the situation to make some inflammatory statements of his own. Speaking at a mass rally on Friday in Um El-Fahm, one of Israel's largest Arab cities, Salah said he hopes the Pope's remarks were "a slip of the tongue - because if not, his words are a direct call to the nations of Europe to stand behind President Bush and Israel in their war against Islam."

Salah also threatened that Jerusalem would soon be taken over: "Very soon, Jerusalem will be the capital of the new Moslem Khalifate, and the Khalif will dwell there."

Security around the Catholic Church leader has been tightened and thickened.

Some Moslems said the Pope's words signaled the start of a "new Crusade" - a reference to the Christian religious/military campaigns against Muslims and Jews in which an estimated nine million people were killed in the first third of the previous millennium.

On Friday night, Hamas official Ismail Radwan told 2,000 protestors in Ramallah outside the PA legislature, "This [statement by the Pope] is a new crusade against the Arab Islamic world. It comes in different forms, in cartoons or lectures.... They hate our religion."