09/25/2006, 00.00
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Bangladeshi bishops defend a misunderstood Pope

After anti-Pope protests, the chairman of the local Bishops' Conference sends a statement to the local press to clarify what the Pope said. For the Pope, the dialogue with Muslims remains a necessity.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/UCAN) – The Catholic Church of Bangladesh, one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world, has come out in defence of the Pope in the wake of the controversy surrounding his address in Regensburg (Germany), deemed by some offensive towards Muhammad and Islam.

In a statement to the Bangladeshi press, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh, Mgr Paulinus Costa, said that the Pope had no intention of offending Muslim or their religion. "His quotation was not interpreted correctly," the prelate said in referring to the words of a Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, who believed that nothing good had come from what Islam had brought. Manuel's words were erroneously attributed to the Pope, an error that led to violent protests in some Muslim countries.

Mgr Costa, who is archbishop of Dhaka, mentioned the Pope's clarification in the Angelus prayer of September 17, adding that during the Holy Father's visit to Cologne (Germany) he had said he was convinced that the dialogue between Christians and Muslims was not optional.

"The Pope noted that the lessons of the past must help us avoid repeating the same mistakes," the Bangladeshi Church leader said in ending his statement.

On September 17, the archbishop had also headed a delegation from the local Catholic Church that met with Bangladesh's Home Affairs Minister Lutfozzaman Babar.

Muslims represent 83 per cent of Bangladesh's population; Hindus are 16 per cent.

Unlike other predominantly-Muslim countries, protests in Bangladesh against the Pope's speech in Germany did not degenerate into violence.

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