Pope apologizes for remarks on Islam

The Pope is "extremely upset" that Muslims have been offended by a recent speech he made referring to jihad, the Vatican said Saturday.

Pope Benedict XVI is "extremely upset" that Muslims have been offended by some of his words in a recent speech in Germany, the Vatican said Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Pope quoted a medieval text that referred tothe Prophet Muhammad's contribution to religion, remarks made by14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

The pontiffquoted Manuel's argument that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable, adding: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Since Benedict's speech at the University of Regensburg, in Bavaria, Germany,there has been growing outrage from Muslim leaders around the world.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, fourchurcheswere hit byfirebombs Saturday morning. Gunmen opened fire on a fifth church in Gaza.A group claiming responsibility for two of the Nablus attacks said it was protesting against what many Muslims view as disparaging remarks about their religion.

Newspapers in many Muslim countries have carried editorials denouncing the controversial reference. Pakistan's Nawa-i-Waqt newspaper said the Pope "should not get involved in suchprovocation without reason."

Vatican spokesman says Pope 'very sorry'

The new Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, saidthe Pope's position on Islam is unmistakably in line with Vatican teaching that the church "esteems Muslims, who adore the only God.

"The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers," the statement said.

Some of the strongest denunciations over the remarks came from Turkey, where Benedict is scheduled to travel in November.Turkey's ruling party likened the Pope to Hitler and Mussolini, and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades.

Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party, said Pope Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet or, worse, a deliberate distortion.

With files from the Associated Press