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Papal apology would be ‘intellectual surrender’ says Protestant

Pope Benedict XVI is facing continuing calls for an unequivocal apology for remarks in a lecture linking Islam to violence, but such a step would be tantamount to "intellectual surrender" says a Protestant theologian in Germany.

"Of course, an apology would be the quickest way for the Catholic Church to get back to normal," said the Rev. Martin Schuck of the (Protestant) Institute for Interconfessional Research in Bensheim near Frankfurt in a 19 September statement.  "But this could lead to incalculable long-term harm. It would become almost impossible in future for prominent personalities to deliver academic lectures dealing with Islam."

Pope Benedict has said he is "deeply sorry" that Muslims have taken offence at some passages of a lecture in Regensburg in Germany in which he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who referred to the "evil and inhuman" aspects of Islam.  But the Pope did not specifically apologise for his words or retract them, although he did say the quotation did not reflect his own views.

Benedict on 19 September appealed for mutual respect for religious belief in a telegram mourning the death of an Italian nun in Somalia in an attack that some observers have speculated may be linked to anger at the Papal speech.

Still, Muslims in Turkey, Iraq and the Palestinian territories were reported to be reiterating demands for an unambiguous apology by the pontiff.

However, "It would be tantamount to intellectual surrender if the Pope were to apologise for the disputed passage," said Schuck, the German Protestant news agency epd reported. "In the final analysis, the reactions from Islamic countries that we have heard about say more about the state of Islam than its representatives might like."

The Protestant theologian described the culture of freedom as being characterised by opinions being able to be expressed "without risk to body or life".  He said: "The issue of the relationship between religion and violence is not something that could justify a ban on speaking out.  The Pope had made it sufficiently clear that the quotation in question did not reflect his own views," Schuck added.

"You can see how absurd the situation is if you imagine it happening the other way round," said Schuck.  "This time it was Muslim functionaries who believed their religion to have been insulted. But should we now fear mass protests in Christian countries because a Muslim Imam or politician has referred to the Crusades?"

(c) Ecumenical News International