Italian Editor Apologizes to Muslims

ROME - The editor of an Italian monthly has apologized for any offense to Muslims over a humorous caption for a drawing showing the Prophet Muhammad in hell, Italian news reports said Sunday.

The journal Studi Cattolici (Catholic Studies), which offers a variety of opinions on cultural issues, ran the caption and drawing in its March issue.

Italian news agencies on Sunday quoted the journal's editor, Cesare Cavalleri, as "apologizing, as a Christian," for any offense.

There was no answer at the journal's offices on Sunday, and a copy of the article was not immediately available.

Milan daily Corriere della Sera said that the journal had run a humorous caption next to the drawing, which was inspired by Dante's depiction of Muhammad in hell in his "Divine Comedy."

The Union of Italian Islamic Communities said it had protested the caption. The organization's secretary, Roberto Piccardo, declined to comment on the reported apology.

Cavalleri was quoted as saying the vignette "was interpreted as being anti-Islam when, if anything, it was a denunciation of a cultural identity crisis in the West," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Cavalleri as saying. "In any case, if, contrary to my and the author's intentions, someone felt offended in his religious feelings, I willingly apologize as a Christian."

News reports said Cavalleri is a member of Opus Dei, a conservative religious organization that had the favor of the late Pope John Paul II.

Opus Dei on its Web site said that while it had no responsibility for the magazine, "we desire to apologize for any offense that was made."

Muslims make up a small percentage of people in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

Earlier this year, a minister in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government was forced to resign after wearing a T-shirt with a caricature of Muhammad on state TV. The incident was blamed for rioting in Libya against Italian interests.

Sun Apr 16, 4:41 PM ET

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