The Vatican has clarified erroneous media reports that the Holy Father's decision to abstain from meeting with Condoleezza Rice was not a snub and not intended to be interpreted as a reflection of the views of the Holy See pertaining to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Pope Benedict XVI declined to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during his August vacation, but Vatican officials said it should not be interpreted as a diplomatic snub.
"The only reason she wasn't received was that she came during a period when the pope doesn't receive anyone. It was a purely technical question of protocol," an informed Vatican source told Catholic News Service Sept. 20.
The source said it was "absolutely not" the Vatican's intention to rebuff Rice or signal disagreement with U.S. policy on the Middle East.
Rice was about to travel to the Middle East for diplomatic talks in early August when the request for a papal meeting was made. The pope was vacationing at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.
Even as it declined the request, the source said, the Vatican made it clear that top officials of the Vatican's Secretariat of State would be happy to meet with Rice at any time.
"So clearly there was no intent to send a negative signal," the source said.
Rice instead ended up speaking by telephone with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, while he was visiting the United States in August.
Cardinal Bertone later praised Rice's mediating attempts, saying, "I recognize the untiring efforts of the secretary of state in reconciliation among the governments of the Middle East."
Although the book cites texts considered authoritative in the Islamic world, the book has been banned in Pakistan because Mr. Spencer is not a Muslim. He is a Melkite Greek Catholic. Melkite Greek Catholics are an Eastern church very similar to the orthodox churches but in communion with Rome, mostly concentrated in Lebanon and Syria, also in Jordan and the Palestinian territories. (I lifted the lines about Mr. Spencer's religious background and the details about the Melkite Greek Church from a transcript of a C-SPAN interview with Robert Spencer done on August 20, 2006.)
Here is the transcript of the C-SPAN interview with Robert Spencer, which goes into detail about his background and his scholarship with respect to Islam: Robert Spencer: Jihad Watch, Director
Here is some more information on the history of Islam:
The Pope's Divisions Benedict XVI promotes "interfaith" dialogue. Muslims and Christians need it.
BY REUEL MARC GERECHT
Although many Muslims have apparently found Pope Benedict XVI's recent oration at the University of Regensburg deeply offensive, it is a welcome change from the pabulum that passes for "interfaith" dialogue. Since 9/11, his lecture is one of the few by a major Western figure to highlight the spiritual and cultural troubles that beset the Muslim world. Think of the awfulness that we've observed in the last years: the suicide terrorism in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but especially the holy-warrior carnage in Iraq, where Sunni diehard believers have tirelessly slaughtered Shiite women and children. Then think of the tepid, not always condemnatory, discussions these atrocities have provoked among devout, especially fundamentalist, Muslims. We should have seen many more Westerners and Muslims posing painful questions about the well-being of Islamic culture and faith. With the exception of President Bush's remarks about "Islamofascism," which provoked dyspeptic reactions inside the U.S. government and out, the administration has generally avoided using powerful language connecting Islam to terrorism.
Let us be frank: There is absolutely nothing in the pope's speech that isn't appropriate or pertinent to a civilized discussion of revealed religions and ethics. Even if one is not a believer in any revealed faith, or has some memory of the conflict, daily cruelty and forced conversion meted out by representatives of Rome's bishops, or has some skepticism about the church's commitment to defending the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment, one can be thankful that the pope sees Christianity as a vehicle of peace and tries to explain why he thinks this is so. And by extension why Islam is so often today the loudly proclaimed faith of men who define their relationship to God through violence. Joseph Ratzinger's explanation, as befits a former professor of theology and philosophy, is an abstract one, but it is in the broadest sense undeniably true.
You can -- and most definitely should -- read the enitre article here.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the U.N. contained remarks that confirmed that he (and presumably others) joyfully await, with expectant hope, the coming of the "Imam Mahdi", the 12th imam, an apocalyptic figure in Islamic prophecy who will reportedly arrive on the world scene "after an apocalyptic holocaust on Earth that leaves most of the world's population dead".