Pope offends Islamic cleric

TURKEY’S top Islamic cleric asked the Pope to take back recent remarks he made about Islam and unleashed a string of counteraccusations against the Christian Church yesterday, raising tensions ahead of the pontiff’s visit to Turkey in November, his first to a Muslim country.

Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Bardakoglu, a cleric who sets the religious agenda for 99% Muslim but secular Turkey, said he was deeply offended by the Pope’s remarks on Islamic holy war, calling them “extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate”.

Bardakoglu said that “if the Pope was reflecting the spite, hatred and enmity” of others in the Christian Church, then the situation was even worse.

Pope Benedict XVI made his remarks on Islam during a speech on Tuesday in his native Germany, where he quoted from a 14th century book that criticised the contributions to the world of Islam’s prophet Mohammed. “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman,” the Pope quoted Byzantine Christian emperor Manuel Paleologos II.

Yesterday the Pope made an emotional visit to the cathedral where he became a priest, ending a six-day trip during which he warned his secular, socially liberal homeland not to let faith in reason and technology make it forget God.

Benedict uncharacteristically tossed aside his prepared text at the cathedral in Freising outside Munich, and instead spoke of his own frailty at age 79 and asked the audience of priests and bishops for their help.

“We all have to respect our limits, so much must be done and I can’t do it all,” he said. “It’s true for the Pope as well, he must do so much and my strength simply isn’t enough for it.

“So I must do what I can, and leave the rest to God and co-workers.”

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