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The Pope is sorry

india Updated: Sep 17, 2006 01:19 IST

Muslim groups still demand a ‘personal apology’

POPE BENEDICT is sorry Muslims were offended by a speech on Islam that provoked fury around the world and led to calls for the leader of the Catholic church to apologise, an aide said on Saturday.

“The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers,” said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in a statement.

The worst crisis since Benedict was elected in April 2005 was sparked by a speech in his native Germany on Tuesday that appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that early Muslims spread their religion by violence. The backlash has cast doubt on a planned visit to Turkey by the Pope in November. In an early reaction to the Vatican statement, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said it was not enough and they wanted “a personal apology”.

“We feel he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology,” the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters. The Pope’s next scheduled public appearance is his Sunday Angelus blessing, when he often comments on current affairs.

Bertone said the 79-year-old Pope confirmed "his respect and esteem for those who profess the Islamic faith" and hoped his words would be understood "in their true sense".

The academic speech was meant as “a clear and radical rejection of religiously motivated violence, wherever it comes from”, said the statement.