Thirteen months later, Benedict set off the most explosive moment of his papacy with a lecture at his old university in Regensburg, Germany, about faith and reason and the risk that Islamic theology makes the religion particularly prone to violence. Even as criticism of the speech spread in both Muslim and Catholic circles, Samir was among the first and most steadfast defenders of the Pope's message about Islam. Indeed, they were the same ideas Samir had been espousing for years. (See pictures from Pope Benedict XVI's first year.)
A new book has just been released by Ignatius Press (the longtime U.S. publisher of Ratzinger's work) that lays out in fine detail the Jesuit's vision of Islam's ancient tenets and current tendencies. Called 111 Questions on Islam, it is the translation of a book-length interview two Italian journalists conducted with Samir in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The priest says that in reviewing the material before the English-language release, he was struck by how little there was to update. "The major points that I laid out are the same today, after more than six years," Samir told TIME in a telephone interview. "This means the problems that we face with Islam continue to be more or less the same."