The Pope applied some salve to wounded relations with the Muslim world yesterday after neglecting and then appearing to slander Islam in a speech last fall. In a surprising reversal, Benedict XVI announced he is restoring the Vatican department responsible for Muslim affairs, which he demoted in importance last year.
Muslim leaders welcomed the move as a step towards the more eccumenical course of the Pope's predecessor, Pope John Paul. A year ago Benedict had merged the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue with another department and removed its director. In September he quoted a Byzantine emperor's characterization of Islam as evil and essentially violent.