They meet graciousness with gracelessness, as the Pope, alas, whitewashes the plight of Christians in Turkey. By Malcolm Moore in the Telegraph, with thanks to Looney Tunes:
The Pope called for an “authentic dialogue” between Christians and Muslims today at the start of a four-day trip to Turkey, as he sought to calm anger in the Islamic world caused by earlier remarks linking Islam to violence.
His hosts responded with concialiatory words of their own, but the pontiff was ambushed into supporting Turkey”s bid for entry to the European Union and then reprimanded by Professor Ali Bardakoglu, the head of the state-run religious affairs department.
The Pope, making his first to a Muslim country since his election in April 2005, appeared uncomfortable as Dr Bardakoglu emphasised the “vast tolerance of Islam” and said that people who suggested it was a violent religion only gave extremists more cause for hate.
In a clear reference to the Pope’s words at Regensberg University, Mr Bardakoglu said religious leaders should not try to “demonstrate the superiority of their own beliefs” or waste time in discussing “the theology of religions”.
He said Muslims universally rejected accusations that Islam “was spread over the world by swords”.
In another poke at the Pope, whose speech at Regensberg contained several historical references, he said accusations of violence “are not based on any scientific and historical research or data.”
The Vatican did its best to play down the attack, saying that Dr Bardakoglu had been “positive and respectful” and that there was “no controversy”.
The Pope in his speech repeated that the Christianity and Islam have more in common than not.
Benedict, who caused the original rift by quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who accused Muslims of being “evil and inhumane” turned once again to a medieval quotation to try to make amends.
He quoted Pope Gregory VII, who said in 1076 that Christians and Muslims “believe and confess to one God, even if in different ways, and every day we praise and venerate him as Creator of the ages and Lord of this world.”
He also said Turkey “is very kind to Christians” and quoted John Paul II, who said on his 1979 visit to Turkey that Christians and Muslims had to “develop the spiritual bonds that unite them” in order to “defend their moral values, peace and liberty.”
Almost every paragraph of the Pope’s speech dwelt on the shared ground between the religions. “Christians and Muslims belong to the family who believe in the one God, and who, according to their respective traditions, look back to Abraham,” he said.
The Vatican has made clear that it wants the Pope’s trip to reverse the damage done by his previous comments, and that there will not only be words, but actions.