Source ::: REUTERS
VATICAN CITY • Pope Benedict underlined in a message to Turkey yesterday his respect for the Islamic faith, which many Muslims believe he portrayed as violent in a speech last year, and called on all religions to denounce violence.
The pontiff, welcoming Turkey's new ambassador to the Vatican and recalling his fence-mending trip there last year, hailed Turkey as a "bridge" between East and West but stopped short of backing its aspirations to European Union membership.
"During my memorable journey I showed repeatedly the respect the Catholic Church has for Islam and the esteem in which the Pope and the faithful hold Muslim believers, especially on my visit to Istanbul's Blue Mosque," he said in a speech.
" ... Believers of different religions should try to work together for peace, starting by condemning violence, which has been used too often in the past under the pretext of religious motivation ... ," the German-born Pope said.
During the Turkish tour late last year, the Pope even prayed facing the holy city of Mecca in his efforts at conciliation with Muslims, many of whom found offence in a speech in Germany last September that included a medieval quote about Islam being spread by violence.
The Pope distanced himself from the quote itself but did not cede to Muslim calls for a full apology. However, the visit to Turkey was welcomed by many Muslims as a sensitive gesture.