2016-07-27
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Vatican City, Aug. 26 - The Vatican was on high alert Friday after two written threats, but a spokesman for the Holy See said it had no reason to think the threats -- which mentioned Pope Benedict XVI by name -- were especially credible.

The threats, which were faxed to a Spanish television station and newspaper earlier in the week, carried the heading "The Pope of the Vatican Goes to War," and were signed by an unknown person named D. Abdouh. The document said that after years of neutrality, the Vatican has come out against the Islamic world since Benedict became pope in April.

"The Vatican ... has moved to support the Christian side of the countries in the world, and if possible, the Catholic side," the document said. "The tendency of the Vatican (in the past) was to not take part in numerous wars."

The document went on to say: "Many children of Islam signed themselves up to the ranks of those who fight Western terrorism, with sincerity, following what ... intellectuals say through the media and motivated by the speeches of (U.S. President) George Bush, (Italian Premier) Silvio Berlusconi, and (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair. The new head of the Catholics, Benedict XVI, has launched a powerful message against these fighters."

Berlusconi and Blair head the two European governments most closely allied with the U.S.-led war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Vatican is located within Berlusconi's Italy.

The document said the pontiff's remarks to Muslim leaders during the recent World Youth Day activities in Cologne, Germany, proved that the Holy See was an integral part of the Western coalition that has pitted itself against Islam.

In Cologne, Benedict met with Muslim leaders and said they had "a great responsibility" to educate young Muslims about the evils of extremism, telling the Muslim leadership, "I am certain that I echo your thoughts when I bring up the concern of the spread of terrorism."

Some media reports pointed out that Benedict was subtly redefining Vatican relations with Islam, departing from the more conciliatory overtures of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to forge an approach that presses for reform.

A Vatican press office official said the charges in the threats were groundless, pointing out that the Vatican has not taken a stand against Islam, but against Islamic extremists. The Vatican also opposes non-Islamic extremists, he said.

"The statements are not based on fact, but the threat could still be very real," the spokesman said.

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