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Australian archbishop backs Pope

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 08:29 IST
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An Australian Catholic archbishop has supported Pope Benedict XVI's comments about Islam, provoking protests from local Muslims on Tuesday.

Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell said the reaction in parts of the Muslim world to Pope's remarks bore out fears over the link between Islam and violence.

"The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears," Pell said in a statement late on Monday.

"They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence."

The Pope on Sunday said he was "deeply sorry" for the offense caused when he quoted an obscure medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman".

Pell said it was "a sign of hope that no organised violence has flared in Sydney in Australia, following Pope Benedict's recent comments.

"No one compared the Pope to Hitler or Mussolini (as in Turkey) or called for his murder as Sheik Malin did in Somalia."

"No group like the League of Jihadists in Iraq promised 'that the soldiers of Mohammed will come sooner or later to shake your throne and the foundations of your state'."

But Pell complained that Australia's mufti Sheik al-Hilali and the head of Prime Minister John Howard's Muslim Reference Group, Ameer Ali, had reacted in a "typical and unhelpful" way to Pope's comments.

"It is always someone elses fault, and issues touching on the nature of Islam are ignored," the cardinal said.

"Our major priority must be to maintain peace and harmony within the Australian community, but no lasting achievements can be grounded in fantasies and evasions."

Ali, who heads the group of moderate Muslims set up to advise the government, rejected Pell's criticisms.

"The point is, Pope Benedict quoted a most inappropriate quote at a most inappropriate time," he said.

The Islamic Council of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, advised Cardinal Pell to look at world history.

"Violence has been a universal phenomenon, it's not confined to a particular faith," said spokeswoman Nada Roudee.

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