Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to offend Muslim sensibilities with remarks about holy war, the Vatican said Thursday night, scrambling to defend the pontiff as anger built in the Islamic world over some of his remarks during his pilgrimage in Germany.
"It certainly wasn't the intention of the pope to carry out a deep examination of jihad (holy war) and on Muslim thought on it, much less to offend the sensibility of Muslim believers," Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who accompanied the pontiff on the trip, said in a statement after Benedict returned to Rome.
A few hours earlier, Turkey's top Islamic cleric asked Benedict to apologize about the remarks and unleashed a string of accusations against Christianity, raising tensions before the pontiff's planned visit to Turkey in November on what would be his first papal pilgrimage in a Muslim country.
Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, a cleric who sets the religious agenda for Turkey, said he was deeply offended by remarks about Islamic holy war made Tuesday during the pilgrimage to the pontiff's homeland, and called the remarks "extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate."