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Reaction to Muhammad Remarks Jars Pope

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

There is more angry reaction in the Muslim world today to remarks about Islam by Pope Benedict XVI. During his speech in Germany this week, the pontiff quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said the following. Quote: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached."

Morocco's King Mohammed is recalling his ambassador to the Vatican over the remarks. In Iraq the main Sunni Muslim party warned today that the pope's comments could lead to violence between Muslims and Christians. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked churches of various Christian denominations. No injuries were reported. And Turkey's prime minister is urging Pope Benedict to apologize and withdraw what he calls the ugly remarks.

Officials say Pope Benedict is extremely upset by the reaction to his speech and sincerely regrets offending Muslims. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

Father FEDERICO LOMBARDI (Vatican Spokesman): It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas of (unintelligible) still less to offend the sensibilities of the Muslim faithful.

ELLIOTT: The Vatican appeared to stop short of the kind of apology some Muslim leaders are demanding and indicated that his comments have been misinterpreted. Vatican watchers say this could be an important lesson for the new pontiff.

Mr. JOHN ALLEN (National Catholic Reporter): I think what we have here is German intellectual meets soundbite culture.

ELLIOTT: John Allen is a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Mr. ALLEN: Under the Pontificate of John Paul, or virtually any other pope of recent memory, this text would have been the product of a committee. Many hands would have been involved in it and this sort of thing would have been scrubbed out of it. Whereas the texts that Benedict has delivered so far in his pontificate have been entirely written by him in the first person. And that has been part of their richness and their depth, but this also illustrates that when you have someone who is perhaps a little tone deaf to, you know, the kind of PC sensitivities and so on, you can get yourself into real trouble in a hurry.

ELLIOTT: Allen says the pope is likely to address the issue tomorrow in his noontime prayer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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