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Pope tries again to calm furor among Muslims

Updated 9/21/2006 12:26 AM ET

By Eric J. Lyman, Special for USA TODAY

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday expressed
"a deep respect" for Islam, but again chose not to apologize
outright for remarks last week that sparked worldwide Muslim

The pontiff, speaking in St. Peter's Square under tighter-than-
usual security prompted by threats, said he quoted a
14th-century letter to encourage interfaith dialogue, not spark
controversy. The letter written by an emperor said the prophet
Mohammed's teachings brought things "evil and inhuman"
and he "spread by the sword the faith he preached."

"To an attentive reader of my text, it is clear that in no way did
I wish to make my own the negative words pronounced by the
medieval emperor," Benedict said Wednesday. He added that
his intention had been "to explain that not religion and
violence, but religion and reason, go together."

The original comments ignited worldwide anger among
Muslims. Protests took place in Indonesia, Turkey and Syria.
Churches were attacked in the West Bank. A nun was shot dead in Somalia.

Benedict's attempt to calm tempers with an expression of regret Sunday has had a limited impact, although there has been no repeat
of the violent protests early this year in the wake of the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting Mohammed.

Still, several threats have been made against the pope's life since his Sept. 12 address at the University of Regensburg in Germany.
Wednesday, uniformed guards patrolled the crowd in St. Peter's Square and manned security controls at the perimeter.

Achille Serra, the city official in charge of security, confirmed that unusually tight security had been ordered. He added, however, that it
was not a "response to a specific threat ... (but) rather a general precaution."

Local Muslim leaders on Wednesday criticized violence that flared up around the world and the specific threats to the pontiff, but they
said Benedict's latest statements still might not be enough to assuage concerns.

"I think the issue has to be addressed directly, and we have yet to hear Benedict say 'I'm sorry, I made a mistake,' " said Adnane
Mokrani, a Rome-based Muslim theologian. "I believe his intentions may have been good, but it was still a mistake to make his point
the way he did."

Some in the crowd in St. Peter's said they hoped the latest statements from the pope would end the controversy.

"He has apologized twice, and I think he should get back to the job of being pope now," said Flavia Lazzaretto, 45, a teacher from
Rome. "Anyone listening to the pope today or on Sunday knows he is sorry for the way his comments were interpreted."

New York native John Carlos Landry, 31, who is studying in Rome for a year, said the pope's comments about Islam had been taken
out of context, but added he thought the furor was partially Benedict's fault.

"I'm convinced the Holy Father meant no harm by what he said, but I am also surprised he would choose to make such a charged
statement," Landry, a priest, said. "He must have known it would take the attention from people who wouldn't try to understand the
proper context."

Benedict plans to visit Turkey — a secular, mostly Muslim nation — in November. Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to assassinate
Pope John Paul II in 1981, warned from prison Wednesday that Benedict's life would be in jeopardy if he made the trip.

Vatican officials said in a statement that the trip would go forward as planned.
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Pope Benedict XVI attends his weekly audience Wednesday at St. Peter's
Square in Rome. Police patrols were increased.