Last night, the Vatican’s press officer Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., took a try at explaining what the Pope was intending to convey:

“Concerning the reaction of Muslim leaders to certain passages of the Holy Father’s address at the University of Regensburg, it should be noted that what the Holy Father has to heart – and which emerges from an attentive reading of the text – is a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence.

“It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful.

“Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father’s discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid ‘the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.’ A just consideration of the religious dimension is, in fact, an essential premise for fruitful dialogue with the great cultures and religions of the world. And indeed, in concluding his address in Regensburg, Benedict XVI affirmed how ‘the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.’

“What is clear then, is the Holy Father’s desire to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, including, of course, Islam.”

Full press release here.