Although the charismatic Christian church planning a Koran burning on Sept. 11 only has around 50 members, the spectre of the impact on Muslim relations led the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to issue a statement today expressing its “great concern” over the plan and stating that “deplorable acts of violence … cannot be counteracted” by burning another religion’s sacred book.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of
the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue / Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center
The communique from the pontifical council began by noting that the proposed “Koran Burning Day” is scheduled for the anniversary of “the 11 September tragic terrorist attacks in 2001 which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and considerable material damage.”
Expressing its great concern, the council said, “These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community.”
The council for inter-religious dialogue also stated that religious freedom is a factor in the situation. “Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.”
Instead of outrageous ceremonies, the council suggested that September 11 would be much better observed by first offering “our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorist attacks” and then praying for them and their loved ones who lost their lives.
“Each religious leader and believer is also called to renew the firm condemnation of all forms of violence, in particular those committed in the name of religion,” the council affirmed.
Quoting from John Paul II’s 1999 address to the ambassador of Pakistan, the council insisted, “Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions.” Pope Benedict XVI similarly expressed in 2006, “violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion.”