Pope Benedict XVI is set to meet Muslim envoys on Monday as part of an unprecedented diplomatic offensive to show his desire for inter-faith dialogue after the outrage over his recent remarks on Islam.
The meeting at Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence, will bring together Muslim ambassadors to the Vatican and Islamic representatives in Italy as well as a French cardinal, Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Envoys from Iran, Turkey, where Benedict is scheduled to visit on November 28-30 and Morocco, whose Vatican ambassador had been recalled for consultations, have all confirmed their participation at the talks.
Poupard said that he could not recall a similar initiative in the past 10 years, and declared that the get-together was "a signal that the Holy Father's call for a dialogue between cultures and religion has been widely welcomed."
A furore erupted in the Muslim world when the pope made a speech on September 12 at the University of Regensburg in Germany, in which he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman."
The lecture sparked days of sometimes violent protests in Muslim countries, prompting the pontiff to say that he was "deeply sorry" for any offence and attributing Muslim anger to an "unfortunate misunderstanding".