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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Prediction 8:  The Vatican demonstrating intolerance for the Muslims in Europe.  Possibility of the Pope speaking negatively toward the Muslim faith, its beliefs and the Qur’an.  He could conceivably call for a new "crusade" against Islam. 

Pope says anti-Islam quotes not his own views
By Philip Pullella and Stephen Brown

VATICAN CITY- Pope Benedict said on Wednesday that his use of medieval quotes portraying a violent Islam did not reflect his views and were misunderstood, but he did not give the clear apology still demanded by many Muslims.

The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, whose speech last week has provoked al Qaeda groups to declare war on the Church, Iraqis to burn the Pope's effigy and Turks to petition for his arrest, said he had not meant to cause offence.

Speaking amid tighter security at his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, the Pope repeated the thrust of remarks made on Sunday that his words had been misunderstood.

He expressed his "profound respect" for Muslims and encouraged more dialogue among religions and cultures.

But Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, in an early reaction, said the Pope's latest explanation was "definitely not an apology."

"The Pope says it does not express his views. So what are his views?" said Mohammed Habib, deputy head of the influential group. "He must say these views (in the quotes) are incorrect."

Even sympathetic observers say the Pope was clumsy to quote 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus saying that everything the Prophet Mohammad brought was evil, "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

But the Pope, a former theology professor, invited his listeners to re-read his speech.

"For the careful reader of my text it is clear that I in no way wanted to make mine the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor and their polemical content does not reflect my personal conviction," he said.

He added: "My intention was very different. I wanted to explain that religion and violence do not go together but religion and reason do."

The Pope said he hoped the furor would eventually help encourage "positive and even self-critical dialogue, both among religions as well as between modern reason and the Christian faith."

VATICAN MEETING

He expressed his "profound respect for the great religions, particularly for Muslims, who worship the one God and with whom we are committed to defending and promoting together social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for all humanity."

A Vatican source said the Pope's secretary of state would invite ambassadors from Islamic countries accredited to the Holy See to a meeting this week or early next week.

Asked if the purpose of the meeting was to explain the Pope's remarks, the source said: "There is not much more to explain now that the Pope has spoken about it twice. This is a gesture of friendship."

In a sign of increased concern about the Pope's safety because of the sometimes violent response to his speech -- which has included seven Christian churches being attacked in the West Bank -- security was tighter at the Vatican on Wednesday.

The Prefect of Rome, Achille Serra, said there was "no specific threat but it would be naive not to take the situation into account," adding that security had been "reinforced." Court sources said public prosecutors were now investigating threats against the Pope and Italy carried on hard-line Muslim websites.

But, as is customary, the Pope still was driven among the crowd standing on the back of an open jeep as it passed among tens of thousands of people in the square.

Western leaders, including President George W. Bush, as well as Church leaders and some Muslims, are struggling to calm the crisis. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he was "completely convinced the Pope never wanted to cause an argument or a confrontation, or criticize the Islamic religion."

The Spanish Socialist called for "calm and understanding."

One of the few signs that the crisis may have peaked came from Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a visit to the United Nations in New York.

"I think that he actually takes back his statement and there is no problem," Ahmadinejad told NBC television. "People in important positions should be careful about what they say. What he said may give an excuse to another group to start a war."

 

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