By ReutersMonday December 18, 11:25 PM
BERLIN (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's controversial Regensburg speech, which angered the Muslim world for appearing to link Islam and violence, won a "Speech of the Year" award from a university in his native Germany on Monday.
The Pope, who gave the speech during a visit to Germany in September, apologised several times for any misunderstanding it caused among Muslims after protests including attacks on churches in the Middle East and the killing of a nun in Somalia.
He did not withdraw his words and Roman Catholic officials accused the media of wilfully misrepresenting the speech, a view the jury of the prestigious Tuebingen University's Seminar for Rhetoric echoed in its announcement.
"The topic of this deliberately misunderstood speech is the relationship between reason and faith in Christianity and the affirmation of the Christian conviction that acting reasonably corresponds to the nature of God," it said.
"In its direct but multilayered composition, the speech is masterfully constructed," it said. "The Pope ... delivered his thoughts with courage and decisiveness, without the willingness to appease and accommodate that often passes for dialogue."
In his speech, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword, a method that was unreasonable and contrary to God's nature.
He used the quote to launch into a much longer discussion of the key influence of ancient Greek philosophical reasoning on the early Christian faith and invited Muslim scholars to enter into a dialogue about faith and reason with Christians.
Benedict later defused the issue with Turkish Muslims on a visit there last month by praying in Istanbul's Blue Mosque.
The Tuebingen jury said the fact that the obscure Byzantine quote the Pope chose to illustrate his argument about faith and reason could attract such international attention "proves it is still relevant over 500 years later."
The Seminar for Rhetoric has been giving "Speech of the Year" awards since 1998, with prize winners including former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and the French-German European Parliament deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
For more on the speech including a full analysis and reactions, please go here.