Pope Benedict XVI told Muslim diplomats Monday that "our future" depends on dialogue between Christians and Muslims as he sought to mend relations after his recent remarks about Islam and violence ignited the Vatican's worst international crisis in decades.
The pontiff also quoted from his predecessor, John Paul II, who had close relations with the Muslim world, stating 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 near Rome.
After his five-minute speech, in a salon in the papal palace in the Alban Hills, Benedict, greeted each envoy one by one. He clasped their hands warmly and chatted for a few moments with each of the diplomats.
"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 dwell on the contested remarks, which set off protests around the Muslim world.
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."