Father Fessio, the proponent of the interpretation that the Holy Father does not believe it's possible, has now retracted his previous remarks.
In a January 20 letter to “The Washington Times,” and in a January 23 message to www.chiesa, Fr. Fessio admits having “misrepresented what the Holy Father actually said.” He acknowledges that “Samir Khalil Samir’s recollection is accurate.” And he explains:
“The most important clarification is that the Holy Father did not say, nor did I, that ‘Islam is incapable of reform.’ [...] I made a serious error in precision when I said that the Koran ‘cannot be adapted or applied’ and that there is ‘no possibility of adapting or interpreting it.’ This is certainly not what the Holy Father said. Of course the Koran can be and has been interpreted and applied. I was making a (too) crude summary of the distinction which the Holy Father did make between the inner dynamism of the Koran as a divine text delivered as such to Mohammed, and that of the Bible which is both the Word of God and the words of men inspired by God, within a community that contains divinely appointed authorized interpreters (the bishops in communion with the pope).”
Fr. Fessio adds that language difficulties were also involved:
“The meeting was an informal one of the Holy Father and his former students. The presentation and the discussion were in German, and the Holy Father was not speaking from a prepared text. My German is passable, but not entirely reliable. My later remarks in a live radio interview were extemporaneous. I think that I paraphrased the Holy Father with general accuracy, but my mentioning what he said at all was an indiscretion, and my impromptu paraphrase in another language should not be used for a careful exegesis of the mind of the Holy Father.”
“I would like to set the record straight and avoid unnecessary embarrassment to the Holy Father. The truth is always crucial, but especially so here where the stakes are so high. I am disconsolate that I have obscured the truth by my ambiguous remarks.”
Magister also includes remarks from other former students who were present at the big meeting of the Ratzinger Alumni who clarified Magister's own misconception that the meeting was on Islam and democracy, when in fact the emphasis was on the Quran as the literal word of God vs. the Bible as the word of men inspired by God.
Ceccanti – who teaches constitutional law at the Rome university La Sapienza – recalls that “in studying the Islamic declarations on the law, I have noted that what is blocking the recognition of democracy and human rights is precisely the weight of the Koran, which is used directly as the applicable law, since it is seen as the unmediated word of God. In order to bring a lasting solution to this legal and political conundrum, we must first address and resolve the theological one. In fact, in examining the individual constitutions of the Muslim countries, one finds even today nothing but pragmatic concessions (such as defining Shari’a as ‘one source of law’) which do nothing to prevent these countries from turning in upon themselves. So the Muslim world’s progress toward democracy is possible, but it faces serious obstacles.”