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Regensburg lecture/Initial reactions

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Part of the series on the
Regensburg lecture
Pope Benedictus XVI january,20 2006 (17)
'Lecture by
Pope Benedict XVI'
Pope Benedict XVI's lecture
Initial reactions
Subsequent Vatican statements
Open letters from top Muslim clerics
Protests, attacks and threats
Controversial Statements about Qur'an Chapter 2
Assessment of the lecture's purpose
Article discussion

Initial reactions

Political leaders


  • Foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit: " This was a very unfortunate statement and it is a statement that shows that there is a lack of understanding of real Islam. And because of this we are hopeful that such statements and such positions would not be stated in order to not allow tension and distrust and recriminations to brew between the Muslim as well as the west." The Vatican envoy was also summoned.[1]
  • Morocco recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.[2]


  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Pontiff's "love of humanity," and said: "We all need to understand that offense can sometimes be taken when perhaps we don't see it."[3]


  • The Guardian Council said the Pope was part of "a series of Western conspiracy against Islam" and had "linked Islam to violence and challenged Jihad at a time when he apparently closed his eyes to the crimes being perpetrated against defenseless Muslims by the leaders of power and hypocrisy under flag of Christianity and Jewish religion".[4] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that "Regarding the issue of the Pope's comments, we respect the pope and all of those who are interested in peace and justice."[5]
  • Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that "The Pope's remarks reflect his misunderstanding of the principles of Islam and its teachings that call for forgiveness, compassion and mercy," but also called on Iraqis not to harm "our Christian brothers."[6]
  • Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdul-Azeez ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaikh , following the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he called the pope's declaration "lies", adding that they "show that reconciliation between religions is impossible".
  • President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that the Pope's comments were "unwise and inappropriate,"[7] but also that "Indonesian Muslims should have wisdom, patience, and self-restraint to address this sensitive issue....We need them so that harmony among people is not at stake."[8]
  • Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, "The Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created. The Vatican must now take full responsibility over the matter and carry out the necessary steps to rectify the mistake."[1]
  • Vice-President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari who at the time was the chairman of India's National Commission for Minorities said: "The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades... It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.".[9]
  • President Pervez Musharraf, in a speech at the United Nations, called for legislation against "defamation of Islam."[10] Pakistan's parliament, issued a statement saying "The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Muhammad have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions." Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said, "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence."[11]
  • Hamas leader and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the Pope's remarks: "In the name of the Palestinian people, we condemn the pope's remarks on Islam. These remarks go against the truth and touch the heart of our faith." He also denounced the Palestinian attacks on churches in the West Bank and Gaza.[12]
  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: "I believe it is a must for (the Pope) to retract his erroneous, ugly and unfortunate remarks and apologise both to the Islamic world and Muslims. …I hope he rapidly amends the mistake he has made so as not to overshadow the dialogue between civilizations and religions.[13]
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh has threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the Vatican.[14]


  • Prime Minister John Howard has backed the Pope's comments, saying that angry response from the Islamic world is "disproportionate, strange and disappointing". He also stated that Muslims should "move on", adding that, "I don't, at the moment, note terrorist groups killing people and invoking the authority of the Catholic Church".[15]


  • President Jacques Chirac warned against "anything that increases tensions between peoples or religions".[16]
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "Whoever criticises the Pope misunderstood the aim of his speech… It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the Pope expressedly spoke in favour of this dialogue, which is something I also support and consider urgent and necessary."[17]
  • Prime Minister Romano Prodi said: "There cannot be any controversy... Religious dialogue and respect for every faith are essential today and religion does not justify any type of violence."[18]
  • Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin stated the Pope's speech was "intelligent and necessary."[19]
  • The director of the Vatican press office stated: "Pope Benedict's remarks about jihad may have been taken out of context but they were not an aberration. On the contrary, they stem from his thinking about Islam and the West in the one and a half years since he became Pope. It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful. Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father’s discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"[20][21]


  • The Organisation of the Islamic Conference said "The OIC hopes that this sudden campaign does not reflect a new trend for the Vatican policy toward the Islamic religion… and it expects the Vatican to express its real vision of Islam", called it "character assassination of the Prophet Mohammed" and a "smear campaign."[22], and asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to address the Pope's remarks.[23]
  • Template:Flag – A European Commission spokesman objected to "picking quotes out of context", and said the commission would not "clarify or interpret" the speech, because they consider it "a theological contribution to a theological debate." He added that "reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable."[24]

Religious leaders


  • Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger said "We are faced with a media-driven phenomenon bordering on the absurd... If the game consists in unleashing the crowd’s vindictiveness on words that it has not understood, then the conditions for dialogue with Islam are no longer met."[25]
  • Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Benedictine Confederation of the Order of Saint Benedict, said that the Pope used Manuel's dialogue with a Persian to make an indirect reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "I have heard he plans to write a letter to the Pope," Wolf added. "I think this would be a good opportunity to take up the gauntlet, so to speak, and really discuss things."[26]
  • Cardinal George Pell of Australia has backed the Pope's comments, saying he does not "rule out the link between Islam and violence" and that "The violent reaction in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears".[27]
  • Cardinal Secretary of State Bertone said: "Addressing the world's other religious faiths is part of the Church's mission... We must all return to the original source of human life, which is love."[28]

Other Christian

  • Shenouda III, the Coptic Pope of Alexandria while admitting that he hadn't heard the exact words used by Pope Benedict XVI, said that "any remarks which offend Islam and Muslims are against the teachings of Christ."[29]
  • Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head Anglican Primate of All England of the Anglican Church, said: "There are elements in Islam that can be used to justify violence, just as there are in Christianity and Judaism."[30]
  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey dismissed Muslim charges that the Pope had "rubbished" Islam and stated that "Muslims, as well as Christians, must learn to enter into dialogue without crying 'foul'."[31]


  • On 13 October 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s address, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding, speaking about the true teachings of Islam.[32]
  • On 13 October 2007, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals unanimously came together for the first time since the days of Muhammed to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam in their letter titled 'In A Common Word Between Us and You'. The letter was addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches, and to Christians everywhere.[33]
  • On 28 September 2006, Muslim scholar of Islam and Comparative Religion studies, Dr. Zakir Naik invited Pope Benedict XVI for open interfaith dialogue.[34][35][36]
  • Ali Bardakoğlu, the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate of Turkey, commented that the Pope's statements "were extraordinarily worrying, very unfortunate, both in the name of Christianity, and in the name of shared humanity," and called on Pope Benedict to either retract or apologize for his conduct. He added "if there is a religious antagonism in the West, it's the responsibility of the logic-ignoring Christian church", citing historical incidents of religious oppression in Europe and the Americas. He also implied that the Pope should consider cancelling his trip to Turkey that was originally planned for November 2006.[37] Bardako?lu later admitted to not having read the Pope's lecture before making his statements.[38]
  • Mohammed Mahdi Akef from the Muslim Brotherhood said the remarks "threaten world peace" and "pour oil on the fire and ignite the wrath of the whole Islamic world to prove the claims of enmity of politicians and religious men in the West to whatever is Islamic."[39]
  • Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, conveyed the university's position that the Pope's comments about Islam "indicate clear ignorance" of the religion and "attribute to Islam what it does not contain."[40]
  • Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Egyptian Muslim cleric and head of Islamic Scholars' Association; " Our hands are outstretched and our religion calls for peace, not for war, for love not for hatred, for tolerance, not for fanaticism, for knowing each other and not for disavowing each other. We condemn this and we want to know the explanation of this and what is intended by this. We call on the pope, the pontiff, to apologise to the Islamic nation because he has insulted its religion and Prophet, its faith and Sharia without any justification."[41]
  • Ahmad Khatami, one of Iran's most influential clerics asked the Pope to "fall on his knees in front of a senior Muslim cleric and try to understand Islam."[42]
  • Aga Khan IV, leader of the Ismaili branch of Islam said: "I have two reactions to the pope's lecture: There is my concern about the degradation of relations and, at the same time, I see an opportunity. A chance to talk about a serious, important issue: the relationship between faith and logic"[43]


  • In a letter to the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar criticized Benedict's remarks, writing: "our way is to honour every religion and every nation according to their paths, as it is written in the book of prophets: 'because every nation will go in the name of its Lord.'"[44]

The Rabbi went on to denounce Islamic violence against Christians, stating that "Our Muslim brothers would add respect to their religion if they outdid themselves and overcame the feelings of humiliation." [45]

Non-religious commentary

  • In an article published in CounterPunch, author Tariq Ali said, "The Bavarian is a razor-sharp reactionary cleric. I think he knew what he was saying and why. In a neo-liberal world suffering from environmental degradation, poverty, hunger, repression, a 'planet of slums' (in the graphic phrase of Mike Davis), the Pope chooses to insult the founder of a rival faith. The reaction in the Muslim world was predictable, but depressingly insufficient."[46]
  • A different view was taken by Christopher Hitchens, who wrote in "Fighting Words" for Slate web magazine that Pope Benedict "...has managed to do a moderate amount of harm—and absolutely no good—to the very tense and distraught discussion now in progress between Europe and Islam." Hitchens also presented what he feels is a problem with the focus of the Pope's speech with respect to Reason: " its new reactionary leader has really 'offended' the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon—reason—that we possess in these dark times. A fine day's work, and one that we could well have done without."[47]
  • Hans Köchler, head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck and a leading advocate of civilizational dialogue, wrote in a commentary: "In his lecture preaching the compatibility of reason and faith, Benedict XVI, the scholar, deliberately overlooks the fact that the insights of Greek philosophy – its commitment to the λόγος – have been brought to medieval Christian Europe by the great Muslim thinkers of the Middle Ages. What he calls the 'encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought' ... was, to a large extent, the result of the influence of Muslim philosophers – at a time when European Christians were totally ignorant of classical Greek philosophy."[48]
  • Tariq Ramadan, an influential visiting fellow in the University of Oxford, said "Most did not read the pope's speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the pope had linked Islam and violence.. certain groups or governments manipulate crises of this kind as a safety valve for both their restive populations and their own political agenda.. the mass protests... end up providing a living proof that Muslims cannot engage in reasonable debate and that verbal aggression and violence are more the rule than the exception."[49]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "In quotes: Muslim reaction to Pope", BBC, 16 September 2006
  2. "Ambassador recalled over Pope row". Agence France-Presse, 17 September 2006.
  3. "Muslims seek fuller apology". The Boston Globe, 20 September 2006.
  4. "Guardian Council condemns Pope's anti-Islam statement". Islamic Republic News Agency, 17 September 2006
  5. Iranian president expresses respect for pope, The Jerusalem Post, 19 September 2006
  6. "Iraq calls for calm after Pope's remarks". Reuters, 16 September 2006
  7. "Pope says he's sorry about strong reaction, says speech didn't reflect his personal opinion", The Jakarta Post, 17 September 2006
  8. Amid criticism and violence the first balanced views about the Pope’s speech appear
  9. On 15 September 2006, In quotes: Muslim reaction to Pope. BBC News. Retrieved on 13 August 2007.
  10. Pakistan calls for ban on 'defamation of Islam' in veiled attack on pope,AFP, 19 September 2006
  11. "Pakistan's Parliament Condemns Pope",Fox News Channel, 17 September 2006
  12. "Pope Apologizes for Uproar Over His Remarks". The New York Times. 2006-09-16. 
  13. "Turkish PM urges pope to apologise for Islam remarks",, 16 September 2006
  14. McShane, Roger (17 September 2006). "Apopelogy". Retrieved 17 September 2006. 
  15. Interview with John Howard
  16. "Al-Qaeda threatens jihad over Pope's remarks". The Times. 2006-09-17.,,3-2363459_1,00.html. 
  17. "Merkel defends Pope amid Muslim fury", Reuters, 16 September 2006
  18. "Prodi, religions must be committed to Dialogue", Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, 16 September 2006
  19. "Le ministre suisse de l'Intérieur défend Benoît XVI", Associated Press, 17 September 2006 (French)
  20. "Homily on faith, logic and holy war was seen as a slur on Islam", The Times, 16 September 2006
  21. "Islam not condemned in papal speech, Vatican spokesman says", Catholic World News, 13 September 2006
  22. "Pope Offends Muslims Worldwide", ABC News, 15 September 2006
  23. " Muslim countries ask U.N. Human Rights Council to address Pope's remarks", AP, 18 September 2006
  24. " Brussels defends Pope's freedom of expression", EUObserver, 18 September 2006
  25. "Many Muslims Say Pope’s Apology Is Inadequate", The New York Times, 18 September 2006
  26. "Pope invites Muslims to dialogue, slams 'holy wars'", ANTARA, 13 September 2006
  27. Cardinal adds to islam-violence debate
  28. "Church has a role to guide other faiths: Cardinal Bertone", Catholic World News, 13 September 2006
  29. "Christian Leader Joins Muslims in Denouncing Pope's Remarks",, 16 September 2006
  30. "Archbishop backs Vatican apology". The Guardian. 2006-09-18.,,1875206,00.html. 
  31. "European leaders back Benedict", The Jerusalem Post, 16 September 2006
  32. Open Letter to his holiness Pope Benedict XVI (PDF)
  33. A Common Word, Official Website
  34. >""Dr Zakir Naik invites Pope Benedict XVI for open interfaith dialogue"". PakTribune. 2006-09-29. 
  35. Pope Benedict’s Provocative Utterances! by Latheef Farook, South Asia News Agency, October 18, 2006
  36. Dead link
  37. "Turkish cleric attacks pope's Islam remarks", Associated Press, 14 September, 2006 (German)
  38. "Türkischer Kritiker hatte Rede nicht gelesen" Der Spiegel, 16 September 2006 (German)
  39. "Pope backpedals on 'jihad' remarks: Benedict XVI says he did not intend to offend Muslims". Associated Press. 2006-09-15. 
  40. "Malaysia demands apology", The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 September 2006
  41. "Muslim reaction to Pope", BBC News, 16 September 2006
  42. "Pope tells Muslims he is 'deeply sorry' for crisis", Malaysia Star, 17 September 2006
  43. SPIEGEL interview with Aga Khan - Der Spiegel. 12 October 2006
  44. "Sephardic chief rabbi criticizes pope's remarks", Haaretz, 17 September 2006
  45. [ ]
  46. Papal insults – A Bavarian Provocation by Tariq Ali for CounterPunch. 17 September 2006
  47. Papal BullJoseph Ratzinger's latest offense. by Christopher Hitchens for Slate. 18 September 2006
  48. Religion, Reason and Violence: Pope Benedict XVI and Islam - Hans Köchler, Statement for the International Progress Organization. 16 September 2006
  49. A struggle over Europe's religious identity - Tariq Ramadan for the International Herald Tribune. 20 September 2006

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