CATHOLICS AND CAIR Come together in the wake of the Pope's controversial comments on Islam by Mitch E. Perry


Pope Benedict has invited ambassadors from Muslim nations to meet with him on Monday, in order to calm anger over the use of a medieval text saying their religion was spread by violence.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, to pontiff has invited the ambassadors and members of the Italian Islam Consulta to his summer residence.

The invitation is his latest move to try to quell controversy over his speech a week and a half ago, when he quoted a 14th century emperor’s thoughts about Islam. The offending passage quoted by the Pope was this :�Show 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 produced�.

The reaction in the Muslim world was initially of anger, though most Imams have said they have respected the Pope’s apologies as sincere.

But there have been recorded episodes of violence. Because of that, yesterday in St. Petersburg, the Tampa chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, held a news conference with officials from the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, and handed the church a $5,000 check to repair churches damaged by angry Muslims.(roll tape#1 o.q.�started by it�)

Father Robert Gibbons is with the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. That was his reaction when CAIR’s Tampa executive director, Ahmed Bedier, called him earlier this week (roll tape#2 o.q.�rebuilding churches�)

CAIR’s Ahmed Bedier, who also co-hosts the WMNF public affairs show “True Talk� that focuses on issues affecting the Muslim world, said the idea to contribute money came from some local members, concerned about the violent reaction by some people in the Middle East towards churches (roll tape#3 o.q.�they could facilitate this campaign�)

The $5,000 contributed on Thursday is considered seed money in a worldwide campaign, which will also include the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton, to repair the churches in Palestine.

CAIR’s Ahmed Bedier says its critical that Muslims – though they may not be pleased by the Pope’s comments – should never resort to violence to address that anger (roll tape#4 o.q.�and that message�)

But Bedier does make clear that the pope’s comments did bother him on a personal level (roll tape#5 o.q.�medicine�)

The Bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese – the Reverend Robert Lynch - was not present for the distribution of the check from CAIR. Reverend Lynch was in Rome this week and spoke with the Pontiff. Reverend Lynch says the Pope told him regarding the controversial comments, “I intended no harm as you know.�

Father Robert Gibbons with the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg says he’s heard all types of comments from Catholics to the whole Pope-Islam situation (roll tape#6 o.q. “Violent reaction�)

There have already been enthusiastic reactions to the Pope’s request to have ambassadors from Muslim nations meet with him on Monday. Iran’s deputy Ambassador to the Holy See, Ahmad Faihma, told the Reuters News Agency that ‘this is a positive signal from the Vatican. I know that this will improve relations with the Islamic world�.

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