The pontiff also quoted from his predecessor, John Paul II, who had close relations with the Muslim world, stating the need for "reciprocity in all fields," Including religious freedom. Benedict spoke in French to a roomful of diplomats from 21 countries and the Arab League in his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo near Rome.
After his five-minute speech, in a salon in the papal palace in the Alban Hills, Benedict, greeted each envoy one by one. He clasped their hands warmly and chatted for a few moments with each of the diplomats.
"The circumstances which have given risen to our gathering are well known," Benedict said, referring to his remarks on Islam in a September 12 speech at Regensburg, Germany. He did not dwell on the contested remarks, which set off protests around the Muslim world.
Speaking in Germany, Benedict quoted the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."
'Reciprocity in all spheres'
Addressing the diplomats, Benedict said that dialogue between Christians and Muslims "cannot not be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity on which in large measure our future depends," he said, quoting to a speech in gave to Muslims in Germany in 2005.
Among predominantly Muslim nations with diplomatic relations to the Vatican, only Sudan did not participate in the meeting.