EU Leaders Should Support Pope, says European Commission President

Following the Pope's controversial comments about Islam, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said yesterday that more European leaders should have spoken out in support of the Pope, who was slammed by the public.

Following the Pope's controversial comments about Islam, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said yesterday that more European leaders should have spoken out in support of the Pope, who was slammed by the public.

"I was disappointed there were not more European leaders who said 'naturally the Pope has the right to express his views'," Barroso was quoted as saying to the German Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"The problem is not the statements of the Pope but the reaction of the extremists," the paper quoted him as saying in a preview of an article to appear on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI has said his much-criticised speech in Regensburg, Germany, earlier this month which quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor 's belief that Islam was evil and violent, did not reflect his own thinking.

The speech by the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics has provoked al Qaeda groups to declare war on the Church, Iraqis to burn the Pope's effigy and Turks to petition for his arrest.

Barroso said the caution on the part of European leaders was probably due to "worries about a possible confrontation" as well
as a "certain form of political correctness".

"We have to defend our values," he said. "We should also encourage the moderate leaders in the Muslim world - and they're the majority - to distance themselves from this extremism."

The Pope is to meet the ambassadors of Muslim countries at the Vatican on Monday.

The meeting will take place at Pope Benedict XVI's summer palace of Castel Gandolfo where a massive security force of 300 guards has been positioned to protect the Pope amid lingering Muslim anger.

The talks are a further effort by the Pontiff to calm tensions with Muslim communities around the world and he is expected to reiterate that his comments on Islam were misunderstood.

More News in Society