In 2005, then Pope Benedict quoted from an medieval text, enraging the Muslim population and causing attacks on churches and murder throughout the world before an apology was issued.

Reacting within days to the statements, speaking through a spokesman to Newsweek Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio declared his “unhappiness” with the statements, made at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and encouraged many of his subordinates with the Church to do the same.  “Pope Benedict’s statement don’t reflect my own opinions”, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”.

Pope Francis on Wednesday Mar 20, 2013 promised “friendship and respect” for all faiths at a meeting with representatives of major world religions in the Vatican in which he said he felt “close” to non-believers. The Roman Catholic Church would “promote friendship and respect between men and women of different religions,” the pope said, a day after his formal inauguration in St Peter’s Square.

“We can do a lot for the good of people who are poor, who are weak, who suffer… and to promote reconciliation and peace,” the pope told other Christian leaders and representatives of Buddhism, Islam and Judaism in an ornate Vatican hall. Latin America’s first pontiff said all religions should be united against “one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our time — reducing human beings to what they produce and what they consume.  “I very much appreciate your presence and I see in it a sign of mutual respect and of cooperation for the common good of humanity,” he said. This was particularly important in a world of “divisions, confrontations and rivalries,” he said.

Francis also told Jewish leaders he wanted to continue “a fraternal dialogue” that began with the reformist Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, which removed the notion of any Jewish blame for Jesus Christ’s death in Catholic doctrine. The 76-year-old pope also said he felt “close” to those people who “do not recognise themselves in any faith but are in a search for truth, for goodness and for beauty, which is God.”

Vatican expert Sandro Magister, who writes for the Italian weekly L’Espresso, said the references show “an attention to people without a religion” that was particularly significant as the Church struggles with rising secularism in many countries. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Church, opened this meeting.  The world economic climate “demands humanitarian action for which you already have great experience,” he said, referring to the “high, grave and difficult task” that Francis will face. He said Christian unity was “our first and most important concern” and called on the pope to “correct worldly tendencies” in Christianity.

Francis assured Bartholomew — whom he referred to as his “brother” — of his “firm willingness to continue with the path of ecumenical dialogue”. Magister said these assurances were very much “in line with his predecessor” Benedict XVI, who was a keen promoter of inter-religious dialogue.

The new pope starts with an apology? Not yet.