'Upset' Pope expresses regrets over remarks
Pope Benedict XVI is "extremely upset" that Muslims have been offended by a recent speech in Germany and hoped they would understand the "true sense" of his words, the Vatican said Saturday.
"The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers," said new Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in a statement.
Bertone said the pope's position on Islam is unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching -- that the church "esteems Muslims, who adore the only God."
The pope, therefore, is "extremely upset that some portions of his speech were able to sound offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers and have been interpreted in a way that does not at all correspond to his intentions."
However, the pontiff didn't utter a full, personal apology that Islamic leaders around the world had demanded.
The angry reaction in the Islamic world to Benedict's comments -- ironically meant to show the incompatibility of faith and war -- stirred fears of massive violent anti-Western protests, like those in February that followed the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
Some of those fears came true.
On Saturday, militants attacked five churches in Gaza and the West Bank. A group calling itself the "Lions of Monotheism" claimed responsibility.
An Iraqi insurgent group threatened to carry out a suicide attack on the Vatican.
"We swear to God to retaliate against you [Pope Benedict XVI] and your sacraments. We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life,'' said the message, posted on a Islamist website and attributed to the Mujahedeen Army.
Many Muslims felt the pontiff was critical of their faith in the speech delivered in front of university professors earlier in the week.
In that speech, the Pope appeared to endorse a Christian view that early Muslims spread their religion by violence.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called Benedict's remarks "ugly and unfortunate" and called on the pontiff to withdraw them.
Turkey's ruling party even likened the pope to Hitler and Mussolini. The group accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades.
The reaction raised doubts a planned trip to the predominantly Muslim nation of Turkey in late November would go ahead.
Pakistan's parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday that condemns Benedict for what it describes as his "derogatory" remarks about Islam.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Saturday that Benedict should "not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created" by his speech.
The Vatican moved to assure that the pope meant only to emphasize the incompatibility between faith and war.
Bertone said the pope was speaking in an academic setting, and that a "complete and careful reading" of the entire text would make clear the pope's reflections.
The pope's speech, said Bertone, ended with "a clear and radical refusal of religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it comes from."
With a report from CTV's Tom Walters and files from The Associated Press