Pope Backtracks on Muslims
Benedict rebuilds demoted department the leads dialog with Islamic world
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2007 5:31 AM CDT
In this photo released by the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper, Pope Benedict XVI appears wearing a wide-brimmed red hat, at the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – 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.