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Quote on Islam does not reflect my views: Pope

Attacks on churches in Palestinian territories continue

AFP

"DEEPLY SORRY": Pope Benedict XVI reading a speech during his Sunday Angelus prayer from his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. The Pope said he was "deeply sorry" at the anger caused by his remarks on Islam.

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday tried to calm Muslim anger at his remarks on Islam, saying he was ``deeply sorry'' about the reaction and that medieval quotes he used on jihad (holy war) did not reflect his personal views.

The head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics stopped short of the full apology or retraction as demanded by some Muslims for his speech in Germany. It was unclear whether the Pontiff's words would end the backlash.

"Sufficient apology"

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it was ``a sufficient apology''.

Before the Pope spoke, there had already been a protest in Iran on Sunday and attacks on churches in the West Bank.

In Somalia on Sunday gunmen killed an Italian nun and her bodyguard at the entrance of a hospital where she worked, in an attack some feared could be linked to Muslim outrage over the Pope's remarks.

The nun was shot in the back four times by two gunmen armed with pistols.

Witnesses and hospital officials said the shooting took place at S.O.S. Hospital for women and children in Mogadishu.

The nun, who spoke fluent Somali, was believed to be around age 60 and had been working at the hospital since 2002, witnesses said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

In the Palestinian territories, unknown assailants used Molotov cocktails and a burning tyre to target two Catholic churches in the northern West Bank on the third day of attacks directed at the church, Palestinian security officials said. No one was hurt in the attacks, during which churches in the towns of Tulkarem and Tubas were damaged, they said. In Tulkarem, assailants broke into a disused church and set a car tyre ablaze, causing serious damage.

In Tubas, assailants threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the windows of another church.

Security strengthened

In Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ, Palestinian police said they had beefed up security around the city's churches.

The Pope, addressing pilgrims at his Castelgandolfo summer residence near Rome on Sunday said, "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

``I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect.''

The German-born Pope was interrupted by applause from the pilgrims at Castelgandolfo, in the hills outside Rome.

In a sign that some Muslims have been mollified, the head of Turkey's religious affairs directorate welcomed the statement from the Vatican.

The Catholic Church has encouraged dialogue with Islam and other religions. - Agencies.

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