Pope's apology fails to placate Muslims as violence goes on

Pope Benedict XVI has used his first public appearance since returning to Italy from Germany to try to defuse the crisis that has overtaken him since he quoted a Byzantine emperor who described Islam as "evil and inhuman".

Speaking to pilgrims from the balcony of his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, at midday yesterday, he said he was "deeply sorry for the reactions to a brief passage considered offensive to the feelings of Muslim believers".

He went on: "These were, in fact, a quotation from a medieval text which does not in any way express my personal thought. I hope this is sufficient to placate the spirits and to clarify the true meaning of my address which in its totality was and is an invitation to a frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect."

But while the Pope was speaking, hundreds of miles south of Rome, in Mogadishu, at least two men shot a 70-year-old Italian nun four times in the back at a school where she worked. The nun, Sister Leonella, died in hospital. A senior Islamic souce in Somalia cited by Reuters said there was "a high level of possibility" that the murder was linked to the speech. A suspect was arrested.

The Pope's spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, described Sister's Leonella's killing as "a horrible espisode ... Let's hope it will be an isolated fact."

But it was not certain if the Pope's words would be enough to defuse a crisis that was beginning to look ominously like the one into which Islam's relations with the West were plunged by the Danish cartoon affair last year.

In Turkey, the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, said the Pope's planned visit to the country in November was still on. "From our point of view, there is no change," he said. But another minister, Mehmet Aydin, pointed out that, in his statement of regret, the Pope seemed to be saying he was sorry for the reaction to his remarks but not for the remarks themselves. "You either have to say this 'I'm sorry' in a proper way, or not say it at all," he said. "Are you sorry for saying such a thing, or because of its consequences?"

The Pope seems to have been oblivious to the possibility that the quotation from the 14th century emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, buried deep inside a learned address to scholars at Germany's University of Regensburg, could have angered pious Muslims. But given the phrase "evil and inhuman" and his failure to distance himself from it, that shows a lack of sensitivity in a figure whose words go around the world in minutes.

And yesterday the surge of violence continued. Two churches in the West Bank were set on fire, following five incidents in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, when five churches were firebombed and fired at.

In some quarters, there were signs the Pope's remarks in Castelgandolfo were enough to draw a line under the affair. The second most senior leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said he accepted the clarification.

But, elsewhere, firebrand Islamic preachers continued to milk the crisis for all it was worth. In the holy city of Qom, in Iran, a hardline cleric, Ahmad Khatami, told hundreds of demonstrators that the Pope and President Bush were "united in order to repeat the Crusades".

"If the Pope does not apologise, Muslims' anger will continue until he becomes remorseful," he went on. "He should go to clerics and sit and learn about Islam."

Protests were also reported in India and Turkey.

This crisis was sparked by the Pope's carelessness, while the cartoon affair was a product of mischief-making. They have one thing in common: both started by depicting Islam as violent. The cartoon that caused most offence showed the prophet with a turban as a tank. The Pope's quotation referred to the Prophet's "command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached". Such references to Islam's alleged propensity for violence cause some Islamic leaders and followers to become livid; in fact, they become so angry at the slur they go out and shoot aged nuns in the back. This is a paradox that Benedict's "frank and sincere dialogue" will need to grapple with, if it is to get off the ground. But it will be a brave man who who broaches the subject.

What he said

* " ... I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims," he told pilgrims at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo. "These, in fact, were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought," the Pope said at his weekly Angelus prayer. "I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was, and is, an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect."

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice