The Holy Father gave his Angelus address today at Castlegandolfo. At the beginning he departed from his text many times to console those present who were being treated to heavy rain. The press reacted instantly, stating that the Pope apologized. However, if you listen to what he said, he did not. Let’s look at the Italian and figure out what the Pope really said (which was broadcast live by Al-Jazeera, among others).
Yes, he spoke of the reaction of muslims to his address in Regensburg. He said that he was "vivamente rammaricato" … "deeply regretful" about the reactions resultings over his use of a brief medieval text which, he stressed, did not express, in any way, his personal opinion of muslims. He underscored that he was citing a medieval text.
Benedict said that Card. Bertone, the new Secretary of State stated already the "real sense" ("autentico senso") of his words. He hoped that people would pay attention to what he actually said. He added that what we need is frank and sicnere dialog with great reciprocal respect. He said that the whole text was and is an invitation to dialog.
«Sono vivamente rammaricato per le reazioni suscitate da un breve passo del mio discorso all’Universita di Ratisbona, ritenuto offensivo per la sensibilita dei credenti musulmani».
Benedict did not use the stronger phrase "chiedere scusa", or "apologize". He did not use the construction "mi sono rammaricato" (rammaricarsi) , which would have meant "I am sorry about" something. He used "vivamente rammaricato" or "deeply sorry" but in the sense of "regretful" or "disappointed" about the reactions following his speech. In fact, the phrase "sono vivamente rammaricato per le reazioni" could really mean "I am deeply wounded by the reactions". [UPDATE: The official English translation released after the fact says: "I am deeply sorry for the reactions"]
It is true that he distanced himself from that text. He said that Paleologus’s words were not his sentiments. You can say that this was an apology if you add all the elements together, but …. there it is. It won’t be enough, of course, for many (for the "thick"). It can be interpreted as an apology and, in a sense, it MUST be. There are in Islamic countries Christian communities in grave peril. Had the Pope not said something like this, those people would be in even greater danger. He had to apologize without apologizing while keeping his agenda on the table.
He added some additional insightful comments about the liturgical feasts of the Exaltation of the Cross and of the Sorrowful Mother. He added that the scandel of the Cross, considered a foolishness to the pagans, helps man to overcome slavery to sign. The Cross, symbol of death and of love, defeats hatred and violence and generates eternal life. In the hype about the comments at Regensburg, don’t forget to read everything Benedict said about the meaning of the Cross for our own sufferings. It was wonderful.
I was very pleased that His Holiness did not grovel over this. Indeed, his words in German to the German pilgrims were rather poignant in his reference to suffering in difficult situations.
The upshot of today’s address was: "Read the whole text and then let’s have a real discussion based on what I really said, not based on a brief citation I used in the speech."
He said he would speak more at length during his upcoming Wednesday audience.
In the meantime, Corriere della Sera rushed to put on its website that the Pope "apologized" … "il Papa chiede scusa" … to muslims. Well… yes and no.
Of course, the reaction of the press and muslim world underscores the point the Pope made in Regensburg. Christians are not treated fairly by muslims, violence is used against them, and reason is not employed. The Pope wanted to bring the use of violence (read "jihad") onto the table. Muslims cannot critically examine their own texts, as Christians do. Real theological dialog with muslims is not possible. Benedict stated that Islam thinks that Allah can be contradictory, which is absolutely different from Christian thought about God. But more on that later.
In the meantime, the muslim goverment in Sudan is committing genocide at Darfur.