Pope meets with Muslim diplomats

Associated Press Writer

Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim diplomats Monday that "our future" depends on dialogue between Christians and Muslims, an attempt to ease relations strained by his recent remarks about Islam and violence.

The pontiff quoted from his predecessor, John Paul II, who had close relations with the Muslim world, when he described the need for "reciprocity in all fields," including religious freedom. Benedict spoke in French to a roomful of diplomats from 21 countries and the Arab League in his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills near Rome.

After his five-minute speech in a salon in the papal palace, Benedict greeted each envoy individually, clasping their hands warmly and chatting for a few moments with every one.

"The circumstances which have given risen to our gathering are well known," Benedict said, referring to his remarks on Islam in a Sept. 12 speech at Regensburg, Germany. He did not address those remarks at length.

Speaking in Germany, Benedict quoted the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

Benedict cited John Paul II's statement that "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres," particularly religious freedom, a major issue for the Vatican in Saudi Arabia and other countries where non-Muslims cannot worship openly.

Of predominantly Muslim nations that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, only Sudan did not participate in the meeting.

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