Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to offend Muslim believers, said a Vatican spokesman on Friday, who accompanied him during his pilgrimage in Germany.
The Pope controversially quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and an educated Persian on the truths of Christianity and Islam.
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," Benedict said. â€œShow me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.â€
The reference to the quote has drawn widespread criticism from Arab leaders and top clerics, who have called for an immediate apology saying they are deeply offended by the remarks.
"The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West," Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, said.
Sheikh Youssef Al Qardawi, a prominent Muslim cleric in Qatar, said: "Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity. We ask the Pope to apologise to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its Prophet and its beliefs."
However, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said, "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."
The Pope wants to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, obviously also toward Islam," Lombardi added.
Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution demanding that the Pope retract his "derogatory remarks" in the interest of harmony between religions.