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The Pope

Pope Benedict on Islam and Turkey

Last Updated December 1, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI. (Domenico Stinellis/Associated Press)

Almost 20 months into his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Turkey late in November 2006, with hopes of calming tensions resulting from his comments on Turkey, Islam and the European Union.

The four-day trip was Benedict's first papal visit to a mostly Muslim country. Protests began the weekend before his arrival in Ankara.

Protesters were upset about Pope Benedict's comments in September 2006 when he quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman." As well, Pope Benedict is perceived as an obstacle to Turkey's ambitions to join the European Union because of his support for reinforcing Europe's bonds of Christianity.

Here are some of his most memorable announcements regarding Islam and the EU.

Comments made during trip to Turkey

"I hope this visit contributes to peace and dialogue between faiths."

— Dec. 1.

"You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom."

— Dec. 1.

"I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges and difficulties daily."

— Nov. 29.

"We know that the scope of this trip [to Turkey] is dialogue and brotherhood, and the commitment for understanding between cultures . . . and for reconciliation."

— Nov. 29.

Comments made before trip to Turkey

"At this time, I wish also to add that 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. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. Yesterday, the cardinal secretary of state published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that 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 great mutual respect."

— Sept. 17

"As for the opinion of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus which he quoted during his Regensburg talk, the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake — in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text — certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come."

— Vatican statement, Sept. 16

Quoting Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "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."

— Sept. 12, in a speech at the University of Regensburg

Quoting Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God,' he says, 'is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.' "

— Sept. 12, in a speech at the University of Regensburg

Other quotes

"[Christians] are called to open their arms and hearts to everyone, whatever their country of origin, leaving the task of formulating appropriate laws for the promotion of healthy existence to the authorities responsible for public life."

— May 16

"In the international context we are living at present, the Catholic Church continues convinced that, to foster peace and understanding between peoples and men, it is necessary and urgent that religions and their symbols be respected."

— On the Muhammad cartoons, Feb. 20

"For believers, as for all people of good will, the only path that can lead to peace and fraternity is respect for the convictions and religious practices of others."

— On the Mohammed cartoons, Feb. 20

Comments before he was elected Pope on April 15, 2005

"The roots that have formed Europe, that have permitted the formation of this continent, are those of Christianity. Turkey has always represented another continent, in permanent contrast with Europe. There were the [old Ottoman Empire] wars against the Byzantine Empire, the fall of Constantinople, the Balkan wars, and the threat against Vienna and Austria. It would be an error to equate the two continents … Turkey is founded upon Islam … Thus the entry of Turkey into the EU would be anti-historical."

— 2005

"The rebirth of Islam is due in part to the new material richness acquired by Muslim countries, but mainly to the knowledge that it is able to offer a valid spiritual foundation for the life of its people, a foundation that seems to have escaped from the hands of old Europe."

— 2004

"Europe was founded not on a geography, but on a common faith. We have to redefine what Europe is, and we cannot stop at positivism."

— 2004

"Europe must recover its Christian roots, if it truly wants to survive."

— 2004

"It is true that the Muslim world is not totally mistaken when it reproaches the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life … Islam has also had moments of great splendour and decadence in the course of its history."

— March 6, 2002

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