VATICAN CITY – Islamic groups demanded that Pope Benedict XVI apologize Sunday in his first public appearance since his remarks about Islam and holy war sparked anger among Muslims around the world.
Italian media reported higher security at the Vatican and at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills outside Rome, where the pope was to appear before the faithful. But security measures were not visibly higher at either location, which have been under heavy guard since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
The pontiff gives his blessing and makes brief remarks to pilgrims every Sunday at 6 a.m. EDT. He has been staying at Castel Gandolfo since his return on Thursday from the German pilgrimage where he made the remarks.
A Vatican statement on Saturday afternoon said that the pope "sincerely regrets" that Muslims were offended, but stopped short of the apology demanded by many Muslim leaders in the Middle East and Asia.
The Jordanian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalist movement said Sunday that was not enough, and called on the pope to personally apologize.
"The Muslim Brotherhood severely condemns the pope's statement and asks the pope to apologize openly," the organization said in a statement.
In the West Bank, two churches were set afire as anger over the pope's comments grew throughout the Palestinian areas.
In the town of Tulkarem, a 170-year-old stone church built 170 years ago was torched before dawn and its interior was destroyed, local Christian officials said. In the village of Tubas, a small church was attacked with firebombs and partially burned, Christians said. Neither church is Catholic, the officials said.
Palestinian Muslims hurled firebombs and opened fire at five churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Saturday to protest the Pope's comments, sparking concerns of a rift between Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
Italy's interior minister said Sunday that the tensions over Benedict's remarks wouldn't result in any further heightening of security concerns.
"I don't believe that for Italy the concern will rise," Giuliano Amato told Italian state radio.
Amato noted that suspected terrorist cells under surveillance inside the country were considered to be focused on targets "outside of Italy."
The interior ministry includes state police and civilian intelligence services.
Speaking to Regensburg university professors Tuesday, Benedict, quoting from an obscure Medieval text, cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's founder, as "evil and inhuman."
Outrage at the remarks began to erupt Thursday as Benedict returned to Germany
Some Muslims have accepted the pope's statement of regret. Senior Indian Muslim clerics said it will "help in building good relations between Muslims and Christians" and asked their supporters to call off planned protests.
But Turkey on Saturday cast some doubt on whether Benedict will travel there as planned in November, in what would be his first trip to a Muslim nation. And Morocco recalled its ambassador to the Holy See to protest the "offensive" remarks.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono described the pope's reference as "unwise and inappropriate," the Kompas daily reported.