Al-Qaida militants in Iraq vowed war on "worshippers of the
cross" and protesters burned a papal effigy Monday over Pope
Benedict's comments on Islam, while Western churchmen and statesmen
tried to calm passions.
The statement by an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of
al-Qaida came after the Pontiff said on Sunday he was deeply sorry
Muslims had been offended by his use of a medieval quotation on
Islam and holy war.
"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the
West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Chechnya," said a web statement by the Mujahideen Shura
"We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help)
Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their
throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the
mujahideen," said the statement, posted on Sunday on an Internet
site often used by al-Qaida and other militant groups.
In Iraq's southern city of Basra, up to 500 demonstrators
chanted slogans and burned a white effigy of the Pope.
"No to aggression!", "We gagged the Pope!", they chanted in
front of the governor's office in the Shi'ite city. The protesters
also burned German, US, and Israeli flags.
A speech by Pope Benedict last Tuesday was seen as portraying
Islam as a religion tainted by violence, causing dismay among
Muslim states where some religious leaders called it the start of a
new Christian crusade against Islam.
The Vatican has instructed its envoys in Muslim countries to
explain Pope Benedict's words on Islam.
Benedict's new Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,
said the Holy See's nuncios (ambassadors) in Muslim countries would
be visiting government and religious leaders.
Chirac refuses to criticize Pope
French President Jacques Chirac refused Monday to criticize the
79-year-old Pontiff, but called for a more diplomatic use of
"It is not my role or my intention to comment on the Pope's
statements. I simply want to say, on a general level ... that we
must avoid anything that excites tensions between peoples or
between religions," Chirac said on Europe 1 radio.
"We must avoid making any link between Islam, which is a great,
respected and respectable religion, and radical Islamism, which is
a totally different activity and one of a political nature," Chirac
The head of the world's Anglican church, Archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, defended Benedict.
"The Pope has already issued an apology and I think his views on
this need to be judged against his entire record, where he has
spoken very positively about dialogue," said Williams, the
spiritual leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide.
Williams told the BBC that all faiths could be distorted, and
the Pope was simply giving an example of that. "There are elements
in Islam that can be used to justify violence, just as there are in
Christianity and Judaism."
Remarks 'crusade against Islam'
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that
Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam were in line with what he said was
the United States' "crusade" against the religion, state television
"The Pope's remarks were the latest chain of the crusade against
Islam started by America's (President George W.) Bush," Khamenei
said in a televized speech.
"The Great Satan (United States) is playing its role in this
An Iranian government spokesman said Monday the Pope's regret
was a "good gesture" but not enough.
The Pope had referred to criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by
14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said
everything the Prophet brought was evil "such as his command to
spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Questions had been raised on whether a papal visit to Turkey in
November could go ahead, but the government, while calling his
remarks "ugly", said there were no plans to call it off.
The Pope, head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, said
the quotation did not represent his personal views, but failed to
satisfy some Islamic groups seeking a full apology.
(China Daily September 19, 2006)