BEIRUT: Head of the Youth Muslim-Christian Dialogue Committee Malek Mawlawi urged Tuesday Lebanese of different faiths to give a “big welcome” to Pope Benedict, who is expected to visit Lebanon in September.
“All Lebanese from various sects need to take part in welcoming the great guest, his holiness Pope Benedict XVI, during his scheduled visit to Lebanon in September,” Mawlawi said in a statement.
Mawlawi also referred to a recent “provocative statement” against the pope over comments he made in a speech in 2006 where the Christian leader quoted 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus as saying everything the Prophet Mohammad brought was evil, “such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Over the weekend, radical Islamic Sheikh Omar Bakri called on Muslims to prevent Pope Benedict, “who insulted your religion,” from entering Lebanon.
"There is no doubt that the pope's remarks were not spontaneous ... but they were thoughtful remarks aimed at inciting the Western world against Islam and Muslims", Bakri said.
In 2006, the pope said the anti-Islam quotes did not reflect his own convictions and were misunderstood.
Mawlawi agreed that the pope had been misunderstood and not intended to cause offence to the Muslim faith.
He said the pope’s use in a speech of medieval quotes critical of Islam, which infuriated Muslims worldwide, did not reflect his own convictions.
“Comments attributed to the pope, which were considered a major insult to Muslims, go back to the Byzantine emperor, not the pope,” Mawlawi said, adding that the Pope had described the emperor’s statement as “rude.”
“Therefore,” Mawlawi said, “we urge all Muslim leaders to stop raising this erroneous issue because it does not serve the Christian-Muslim national interest and can cripple coexistence, which we all call for, especially the pope."