Turkey’s top religious official was quoted on Thursday as saying Pope Benedict should apologize for comments he made about Islam and should reconsider his plans to visit Turkey later this year.
In a lecture in Germany on Tuesday, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who wrote that the Prophet Muhammad had brought things "only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Benedict made the comment during an appeal to Muslims to join a dialogue of cultures that agrees the concept of Islamic “holy war” is unreasonable and against God’s nature.
“(The Pope’s words are) extremely regrettable and worrying... both for the Christian world and for the common peace of humanity,” the state Anatolian news agency quoted Ali Bardakoglu as saying.
Bardakoglu heads Ankara’s Directorate General for Religious Affairs, which controls all imams in Turkey and sends prayer leaders to Turkish communities abroad.
Benedict is due to visit mainly Muslim but secular Turkey in November at the invitation of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. He is also expected to meet Patriarch Bartholomew, Istanbul-based spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
'Mentality of holy war'
NTV television quoted Bardakoglu as suggesting the Pontiff should not visit if he holds such critical views about Islam.
“I do not see any use in somebody visiting the Islamic world who thinks in this way about the holy prophet of Islam. He should first rid himself of feelings of hate,” NTV’s Web site quoted Bardakoglu as saying.
Bardakoglu recalled atrocities committed by Roman Catholic Crusaders during the Middle Ages in the name of their faith against Orthodox Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.
“Behind these words of the Pope is a mentality of holy war and the Crusades,” Anatolian quoted him as saying.
In his lecture at Regensburg University, the Pope used the terms “jihad” and “holy war” in his lecture, adding: “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict used the comments by Byzantine Emperor Manual II Paleologos only to explain the issue and not to condemn all of the Muslim religion as violent.