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Pope to Meet With Muslim Envoys, Leaders

Pope Benedict has invited representatives of Muslim countries to meet Monday at his summer residence. The pope has been making efforts to open up a new dialogue with Muslim leaders after his words on Islam sparked anger and violence last week.

Pope Benedict XVI has invited envoys of predominantly Muslim nations with diplomatic ties to the Vatican to a meeting Monday at his summer palace in Castelgandolfo, in the hills south of Rome. The pope has been trying to smooth relations with Muslims following a speech he made in Germany that offended many the Islamic world.

A number of Italian Islamic leaders are also expected to attend the meeting with the pope.

The pope and Vatican officials have been making efforts to open new channels of dialogue, following the anger and violence that erupted in response to the pope's speech. Papal envoys around the world were ordered to meet with leaders of Muslim countries to explain the pope's point of view and full context of his speech.

Pope Benedict has also acknowledged that his comments quoting a Byzantine emperor who referred to some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil" and "inhuman" were open to misinterpretation.

"I included a quotation between religion and violence," the pope said. "This quotation unfortunately was misunderstood. In no way did I wish to make my own the words of the Medieval emperor."

Since his return from Germany last week the pope has twice addressed Roman Catholics to explain that his comments were not aimed at offending Muslim sensibilities and did not represent his personal opinion.

Pope Benedict has said he is "deeply sorry" about the reactions that followed his words and that he has "deep respect" for Islam.