09/17/2006, 00.00
ISLAM – VATICAN

Amid criticism and violence the first balanced views about the Pope's speech appear

Former Iranian President Khatami and current Indonesian President Susilo warn against jumping to conclusions.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said the full text of the Pope speech in Regensburg should be read before making any comments on its contents.

"I hope that the reports in this regard are misinterpreted as such remarks [as reported in the press] are usually made by uninformed and fanatic people but my impression of the pope was rather an educated and patient man," Khatami said after his return to Tehran from a two-week visit to the United States.

Khatami's is the first balanced statement to come out of the Muslim world with regard to the Pope's remarks about statements made by Manuel II Palaiologos, who said that the "new things" brought by Islam are only evil things.

Today during the Angelus, Benedict XVI again insisted that the Byzantine emperor's words do not reflect his views.

As made clear in yesterday's press release by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the text of the Pope's proclusion (inaugural address) shows that the Pontiff only wanted to express his "rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come".

So far reactions in the Muslim world, which have ranged from outrage and criticism to violence, have been based solely on media excerpts. There are not as yet any translations of the Pope's speech into Arabic or any Eastern languages.

Like Iran's Khatami, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also been more balanced in his reaction. Speaking from Havana (Cuba) where he is attending a summit of non-aligned countries, he said 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".

Susilo, who presides over the fate of the largest Muslim country in the world, urged the Holy See to "be very quick to respond this very sensitive issue by issuing some corrections and constructive gestures that would decrease tension" between Muslims and Christians.

In the meantime protests and violence continue in some parts of the Muslim world. Some 200 Iranian clerics and seminary students gathered on Sunday in Qom, 135 kilometres south of the capital Tehran, to protest against what they called anti-Islamic remarks by Pope Benedict XVI. In protest against the pope's remarks, the country's clergy seminary centre said all seminaries throughout the country would be closed on Sunday.

In the West Bank two churches suffered damages when stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at them.

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