Page 2, 22nd September 2006

22nd September 2006
Page 2
Page 2, 22nd September 2006 — Church reaps whirlwind of Muslim anger

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Church reaps whirlwind of Muslim anger

Italian nun is killed in Somalia after Pope's speech

BY MARK GREAVES AN ITALIAN nun was murdered in Somalia as Muslim extremists in Asia and the Middle East bombed churches and burned effigies of the Pope in protest at the pontiff's alleged "insult to Islam".

Demonstrations against the Pope continued in countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, India and Indonesia despite Pope Benedict's expression of regret on Sunday.

Sister Leone11a, 66, was shot in the back four times outside a children's hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, where she had worked for four years. Her bodyguard was also killed.

The Sister, a member of the Missionaries of the Consolation order based near Rome, was attacked while walking a few yards from the hospital to her home, where three other nuns were waiting to have lunch with her. A hospital official said that Sister Leonella was "specifically targeted before being executed by gunmen lying in wait".

The murder took place shortly after a Somalian cleric called for Muslims to kill Pope Benedict in retaliation for his perceived insult.

Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said he feared the shooting was "the fruit of violence and irrationality arising from the current situation".

Over the weekend Palestin

ian militants hurled firebombs and poured oil over churches to set them ablaze. By Monday, at least seven Christian churches in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had been attacked.

Rioters took to the streets in Kashmir shouting slogans against the Pope and burning papal effigies.

In the town of Allahabad, in the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir, protestors threw stones at a church. In Srinagar shops, businesses and most schools closed after hardline separatist leaders called for a strike in protest.

In Basra, Iraq, up to 150 demonstrators chanted slogans such as "No to aggression" and "We gagged the Pope" while burning an effigy of Pope Benedict along with American, German and Israeli flags.

Dozens of aggrieved Muslims protested in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday, and on Sunday about 500 theology students rallied in Qom, Iran.

The fast sign that the Pope's words might provoke Muslim anger came on Thursday, two days after the Pontiff's lecture, when Kashmiri police allegedly seized newspapers to prevent heightened tension.

The crisis began to untold in earnest on Friday, as Muslim representatives, clerics and government leaders started to clamour against the Pope's alleged anti-Islamic comments. Pakistan's parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Pope and seeking an apology for his "derogatory" remarks on Islam.

On the same day a senior figure in Turkey's government accused Pope Benedict of having "a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages".

Salih Kapusuz, the deputy head of the Turkish ruling AK Party, added: "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."

Pope Benedict's explanation of his use of the Emperor's quotation in his Angelus address on Sunday satisfied many Muslim leaders. However, his words caused confusion in some parts of the Muslim world, and governments in Iran and in Iraq sent for papal nuncios to explain the extent of the apology.

The Turkish government responded with a statement insisting that the Pope was still welcome to visit Turkey later this year. But a minister, Mehmet Aydin, said he was unhappy with the Pope's expression of regret. "You either have to say, 'I'm sorry' in a proper way, or not say it at all. Are you sorry for saying such a thing, or because of its consequences?"

Catholic leaders in Turkey also held an emergency meeting with the papal nuncio to discuss threats against Pope Benedict during his planned visit at the end of November.

Both the European Union and German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the Pope. Mrs Merkel insisted that he had been misunderstood, while the EU said that a "disproportionate" reaction to the Pope's remarks threatened fundamental freedoms.

But Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said Pope Benedict's words were "the latest link" in a Western conspiracy to "set in train a crusade".

Other signs of this conspiracy, he said, included the Danish cartoon satirising Mohammed and "the insulting remarks of some American and European politicians and newspapers about Islam".

The Ayatollah also said: "We do not expect anything from Bush, because he works for global, plundering companies and powers. But these remarks are very much a cause for regret and surprise from a senior Christian official."

Incitements to violence and vows of revenge against the Catholic Church have been posted on jihadist websifes. One, run by the Mujahedeen Army, threatened the Church with suicide bombers. "We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life," it said.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq said it would slit the throats of all "worshippers of the cross".

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