ROME, Sept. 15 — Pope Benedict XVI drew rising anger on Friday over comments he made Tuesday about Islam, as Muslim leaders around the world accused him of dividing religions and demanded an apology.
Khalid Tanveer/Associated Press
A demonstration against the pope’s remarks was held in Multan, Pakistan.
In Britain, Gaza, Iraq, Syria and Indonesia, Muslim leaders registered their protest. The Parliament in Pakistan passed a resolution against the pope’s statements, and the government later summoned the Vatican envoy to express official displeasure. In Lebanon, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the most senior Shiite cleric, demanded “a personal apology — not through his envoys.”
And emotion spilled over in Turkey, which Benedict is scheduled to visit in November, as a top official in the Islamic-rooted ruling party said that the pope was “going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.”
“He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages,” the official, Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of Turkey’s governing party, was quoted as saying on the state-owned Anatolia news agency. “It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades.”
Reaction to the pope’s remarks — in which he quoted a description of Islam in the 14th century as “evil and inhuman” — has presented Benedict with the first full-blown crisis of his papacy.
Some in Turkey have questioned whether he should make the visit, the pope’s first to a Muslim country. Many Muslims are also comparing his comments to the unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had stoked deep anger among Muslims earlier this year.
The Vatican did not release an official comment on Friday. On Thursday, as Benedict returned from a six-day trip to Germany, his chief spokesman said that he had not intended to “offend the sensibility of Muslim believers.”
Other top Vatican officials also sought to tamp down the anger.
“I am convinced the pope did not mean to assume a position against Islam,” a top German cardinal, Walter Kasper, told the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a French prelate with experience in the Islamic world, was appointed on Friday as the Vatican’s new foreign minister. He told Agence France-Press: “The dialogue between different civilizations, cultures and religions — which nobody can hide from — will be one of the great questions which I will tackle in my new job.”
In a major speech on Tuesday at Regensburg University, Benedict delivered a long, scholarly address on reason and faith in the West. But he began his speech by recounting a conversation on the truths of Christianity and Islam that took place between a 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian scholar.
“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 pope said.
While making clear that he was quoting someone else, Benedict did not say whether he agreed or not. He also briefly discussed the Islamic concept of jihad, which he defined as “holy war,” and said that violence in the name of religion is contrary to God’s nature and to reason.
He also suggested reason as the basis for “that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.”
Benedict, a respected theologian, is said to write many speeches himself, and some in the Italian news media speculated that the Vatican would be forced into a more stringent review of his statements.
The controversy came as a new Vatican hierarchy was being put in place. In addition to appointing a foreign minister, the pope installed as secretary of state — the highest position after the pope — Cardinal Tarcisco Bertone, 71, an Italian and longtime colleague of the pope’s.
Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.