The Catholic University of America
Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., CUA president, has provided several major media interviews regarding Pope Benedict XVI's recent remarks on Islam. His recent comments on CNN can be read in the transcript below.

CUA President Appears on CNN's 'This Week at War' to Discuss Pope's Comments

From: This Week at War
Date: Sept. 23, 2006
Host: John Roberts
Video: mms://136.242.14.49/froconnell/fathero'connell.cnn.060923.wmv

Joining me now Father David O'Connell. He's the president of Catholic University here in Washington and Ahmed Younis, who is the national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. So the Pope, again, reaching out to Muslim ambassadors to the Vatican, trying to explain his comments more. Let's rewind a little bit and Ahmed Younis, what happened here? Why such an eruption among the Muslim faith?

AHMED YOUNIS, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: I think the eruption is because there has been an excuse to engage in an eruption, very similar to the Danish cartoons.

There are two fundamental world views in the Muslim camps, 1.4 billion people around the world. One is the clash of civilizations world view, that there is a crusade against Islam, a war on Islam, and when folks in the West mistakenly refer to ideas or the analysis of those that believed in the clash of the civilizations and the clash of faiths, as we saw on the screen, they bolster the ideology and the identity of the extremists.

So what we see on the streets, these are not protests for the west, these are protests for their fellow country persons, telling them our world view is winning, our world view is dominating, look even their Pope is engaging in an analysis that is anti-Muslim. ROBERTS: Father O'Connell, why do you think the Pope chose that particular quote from a 14th century Byzantine emperor?

FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: It is hard to say. You know, even the Pope said, you know, as I was reflecting on this notion of reason and faith, this text came to mind. It is something that he had been reading. And I think probably the relationship between Christianity and Islamic faith is something very much on his mind.

From the earliest days of the Papacy he talked about reaching out and entering into this inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. So he is probably trying to read a great about the historical rift between the two religions and it's probably in the context that this came to his mind.

ROBERTS: So historical a historical rift back in the year 1300 and change, but now on the streets, obviously, there's rift as well. Ahmed Younis, is this eruption on the Muslim street an indication of just how much tension remains between Muslims and Christians?

YOUNIS: No, I don't think so. I think what is being offered as a refutation of what the Pope said is being used as a proxy of the West. I don't think it's being used as a proxy of Christianity. Bubba Shenouda, the head of Egyptian Coptic Church, has made it very clear that he believes that the Pope should apologize, but it is very important, again, to say the apology should not be for the people on the streets.

This engagement with government leaders, having a dialogue, hopefully seeing a dialogue with nongovernmental institutions and community leaders globally. That's where we need to move, not insisting on a mere or simple apology.

ROBERTS: Let's take a look at what the Pope said about this on Wednesday in an apology. He said "I did not in any way wish to make my own the negative words, which were pronounced by the Medieval emperor in this dialogue. And his contained polemic did not express my personal convictions." So Father O'Connell, the pope has apologized repeatedly. He's got this summit with Muslim ambassadors at the Vatican on Monday. What else does he need to do?

O'CONNELL: I don't know what else he needs to do. You know, from the beginning the Pope's spokesman issued an apology or a statement of regret. Cardinal Bertoni, the head of the secretary of the state, first day on the job and what a first day it was for him, issued an expression of the Pope's regret. The Pope offered an apology at Deangelis (ph). The Pope offered an apology on Wednesday. He's now extended, in a sense, the olive branch to the Muslim community and the Muslim leadership. I don't know how much times he has to apologize.

ROBERTS: Here's what's coming from the Muslim community, at least a segment of the Muslim community. Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi on Wednesday said, I thank his holiness for making us understand his words were not intended to offend anyone. He seems to have to have accepted the apology. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, was also asked about it. He seemed to be comfortable with the apology, so Ahmed Younis, why aren't some people in the Muslim world letting this go. Protests continue even now.

YOUNIS: Because they are domestic political actors that are politicizing what they are claiming another example of why there is a clash between Muslims and the west. And the way to fuel their fires is to allow this conversation to continue without a true engagement, without a real dialogue between these civilizations.

I completely agree, we don't need anymore apologies and the Pope what is sufficient in order to make it clear that those were not his opinions. But let's move along in the analysis. Let's get more substantive in the interaction between these two world views, these two great civilizations and I think, as a Muslim, the Pope is my leader. He is a faith leader of all moderates and I expect him to back me up when I say that the tradition of the prophet is one of engagement, not one of violence.

ROBERTS: And one other issue popped up late in the week. Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II sent a note to the Vatican saying Pope Ratzinger, listen to someone who knows these things very well. Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey, talking about the Pope's upcoming trip to Turkey. Father O'Connell do you take these threats seriously?

O'CONNELL: I think we have to take any threats seriously in these days. However, the Pope is looking, the Pope has a different agenda in mind. I don't think that his holiness is fearful of his life at all. He wants to reach out. He wants to enter into serious dialogue at great depth. His interest is in faith and in God and in really the spreading of the gospel and the living of a life of charity. His first encyclicals letter was on charity and tolerance and care.

ROBERTS: And in terms of that lack of fear, we do see him traveling around St. Peter's Square in an open Pope-mobile, unlike the bulletproof one that John Paul drove around in. Well, we certainly hope that this does spark a dialogue of reconciliation. Father O'Connell and Ahmed Younis, thanks for being with us, appreciate it.

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