Pope In Jordan To Promote Mideast Peace In talks with Muslim leaders Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed regret for comments he made three years ago that offended much of the Muslim world. He quoted medieval text that characterized some of an Islamic prophet's teachings as "evil and inhuman."
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Pope In Jordan To Promote Mideast Peace

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Pope In Jordan To Promote Mideast Peace

Pope In Jordan To Promote Mideast Peace

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GUY RAZ, Host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

XVI: mend relations with the two religions that dominate the area.

Both Muslims and Jews have been angered by statements and gestures he's made in the past. In January, the pope moved to lift the excommunication of a bishop who denied the Holocaust. Later, Benedict said he deeply regretted how that case was handled. And today, he spoke of the inseparable bond between Christians and Jews.

BENEDICT XVI: May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred scripture and the desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews.

RAZ: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is traveling with the pope, and she sees a strong contrast between Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: There is a huge difference between Benedict and John Paul. John Paul was a much more charismatic figure. He was welcomed tremendously. He was seen as, you know, a great friend of Jews and Muslims.

Benedict has had some mishaps, some serious mishaps, with both of the monotheistic religion in recent years. So, there's much more diffidence and suspicion in this part of the world towards him than there would have been to John Paul II.

RAZ: And he particularly angered Muslims with the statement he made three years ago in a speech in Regensburg, Germany.

POGGIOLI: Yes. In fact, he quoted a medieval, Byzantine emperor who had described Islam as evil and inhuman and spread by the sword. Two months later, he tried to make amends by visiting and praying in a mosque in Istanbul, but not all Muslims here are satisfied.

The hard-line Muslim Brotherhood, which is the biggest opposition group, boycotted the visit because they say Benedict has still not apologized sufficiently.

RAZ: And it seems like he is really now trying to focus on this issue of Christian-Muslim relations and sort of trying to bring about a Christian-Muslim dialogue. I mean, he's been very, very focused on this in the past year or so.

POGGIOLI: Well, in fact, that controversy, which was so - was very heated and which led to a lot of violence, also, in the Muslim world, actually did lead to the beginning of the opening of a rather official dialogue.

There was an important meeting last November in Rome, at the Vatican, between leading Muslim scholars, Muslim religious leaders, and Vatican officials, and it's now a permanent dialogue that meets at least once a year, and it is seen that, you know, people say that from that controversy, something at least positive has emerged.

RAZ: That's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli with the pope in Amman, Jordan. Sylvia, thanks.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Guy.

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