The threats, which were faxed to a Spanish television station andnewspaper earlier in the week, carried the heading "The Pope of the VaticanGoes to War," and were signed by an unknown person named D. Abdouh. Thedocument said that after years of neutrality, the Vatican has come outagainst the Islamic world since Benedict became pope in April.
"The Vatican ... has moved to support the Christian side of thecountries in the world, and if possible, the Catholic side," the documentsaid. "The tendency of the Vatican (in the past) was to not take part innumerous wars."
The document went on to say: "Many children of Islam signed themselvesup to the ranks of those who fight Western terrorism, with sincerity,following what ... intellectuals say through the media and motivated by thespeeches of (U.S. President) George Bush, (Italian Premier) SilvioBerlusconi, and (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair. The new head of theCatholics, Benedict XVI, has launched a powerful message against thesefighters."
Berlusconi and Blair head the two European governments most closelyallied with the U.S.-led war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Vatican islocated within Berlusconi's Italy.
The document said the pontiff's remarks to Muslim leaders during therecent World Youth Day activities in Cologne, Germany, proved that the HolySee was an integral part of the Western coalition that has pitted itselfagainst Islam.
In Cologne, Benedict met with Muslim leaders and said they had "a greatresponsibility" to educate young Muslims about the evils of extremism,telling the Muslim leadership, "I am certain that I echo your thoughts whenI bring up the concern of the spread of terrorism."
Some media reports pointed out that Benedict was subtly redefiningVatican relations with Islam, departing from the more conciliatory overturesof his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to forge an approach that presses forreform.
A Vatican press office official said the charges in the threats weregroundless, pointing out that the Vatican has not taken a stand againstIslam, but against Islamic extremists. The Vatican also opposes non-Islamicextremists, he said.
"The statements are not based on fact, but the threat could still bevery real," the spokesman said.