Pope Benedict XVI has been mentioned in a new Osama bin Laden message. The pontiff is due to speak next month at the United Nations, pray at the World Trade Center site and celebrate Mass in Yankee Stadium.
Bin Laden says the pope has played a large role in a "new Crusade" against Islam.
In an audio message posted Wednesday on a Web site bin Laden condemns the Danish publication of drawings he calls insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. He warns Europeans of a "severe" reaction to come.
Back in December 2007, Al Qaeda expressed its dismay at the prospect of the Pope seeking to "dialogue" with Islam in a spirit of peace (Zenit News. December 18, 2007):
Al-Qaida is worried by Benedict XVI's efforts to dialogue with Muslims, says a Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi affirmed this today when commenting on a one-hour 37-minute video from al-Qaida's second-in-command, who criticized Benedict XVI's Nov. 6 meeting with Saudi Arabian King Abdallah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The video from Ayman al-Zawahri was posted Sunday on the Internet. The al-Qaida leader said the Pope's meeting with King Abdallah, the first ever between a Pontiff and a Saudi monarch, was offensive to Islam and Muslims.
- Vatican dismisses bin Laden's charges of pope's anti-Islam campaign, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican spokesman dismissed Osama bin Laden's accusations of an anti-Islam campaign by Pope Benedict XVI, noting the pope's efforts to dialogue with Muslims.
Bin Laden, citing the controversy over cartoons ridiculing the prophet Mohammed, said the pope was part of a "new crusade" against Islam.
"The content of the accusations makes no sense," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service March 20.
"But these kinds of allegations are not new," Father Lombardi added. The Vatican responded to similar accusations by al-Qaida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, last December.
The Vatican spokesman said it was not surprising for bin Laden to name the pope among his many "perceived enemies," but said the more moderate Muslim world knows the pope's commitment to good interreligious relations.