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Pope Francis condemns Quran burning in interview with UAE newspaper

July 3, 2023 Catholic News Agency 6
Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on June 28, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jul 3, 2023 / 04:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has spoken to Al-Ittihad in his first interview granted to an Arabic news outlet, according to the United Arab Emirates newspaper.

In the July 3 interview, the pope praised UAE authorities and spoke about interfaith cooperation, peace-building, and his 2019 Document on Human Fraternity.

Francis also commented on a protester’s burning of a Quran in Sweden on June 28. The Muslim holy book was burned by an Iraqi-born refugee outside a mosque in Stockholm. The incident has sparked outrage among Muslims around the world and led to a raid on the Swedish embassy in Iraq by Shia Muslim protestors.

After other recent permit requests were denied due to plans to burn copies of the Quran, the Swedish courts ruled that the protests should be allowed on the basis of freedom of expression, the BBC reported.

“I have been outraged and disgusted at such deeds,” Pope Francis said in response to a question about last week’s incident. “Any book considered sacred by its people must be respected out of respect for those who believe in it. The freedom of expression should never be used as an excuse to offend others. Allowing that is [to be] rejected and condemned.”

The papal interview was published in Arabic by Al-Ittihad with an English transcript provided to journalists.

In the interview, Pope Francis said “the future of interfaith cooperation is based on the principle of reciprocity, respect for the other and the truth.”

He said the message of every religion should be not only to call out evil, but also to promote peace: “Our task, without giving in to conciliatory measures, is to pray for one another, asking God for the blessing of peace, and to meet, dialogue and consolidate harmony in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.”

“Our task is to transform the religious sense into cooperation, fraternity, tangible acts of good,” he added.

The pope said fraternity, and caring for others, “must be directed to everyone without distinction.”

“If I only do good to those who think or believe like me, my benevolence is hypocrisy,” he said, “because good knows no discrimination nor exclusion.”

Francis called his Document on Human Fraternity, which he signed in 2019 in Abu Dhabi with the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, an important text “for the peaceful coexistence of all human beings.”

“I would like to say that the document is a light that guides all men and women of good will on the path of coexistence and encounter. It is a roadmap for anyone who courageously chooses to be a peacemaker in our world torn apart by war, violence, hate and terror,” he said.

“Human fraternity,” he continued, “is the antidote the world needs to heal itself from the poison of these wounds.”

The pope also addressed young people and the onslaught of negativity, prejudice, and fake news they are faced with today.

He said youth need to know how to use the tools of “freedom, discernment and responsibility.”

“Freedom is what distinguishes man,” Francis said. “God created us free even to reject him. Today we can no longer force our youth not to think, to ask the question, to be skeptical, because the question is the way to the truth. And because freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of thought and freedom of expression are essential to help them grow and learn.”

“We can no longer force the youth of today, who hold in their hands cell phones that allow them to access any information, into darkness, ignorance, hatred and isolation,” he added.

Pope Francis also spoke about discernment, which he called a “gift from God” and “the ability to distinguish between the false and the true.”

Pope Francis praised Abu Dhabi’s Abrahamic Family House, which provides a common place for the three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — to worship.

The complex, which has a church, a synagogue, and a mosque, opened earlier this year.

“The Abrahamic Family House is a place for respecting diversity, which God willed, and not turning difference into contempt or a cause for conflict,” he said.

“It is a place of coexistence, tolerance and faith. Each of us can live his faith with respect for the other;s faith and human freedom,” he added. “Only those who are not sure of their faith live in fear of meeting others and rush into confrontation. A true believer lives his faith without feeling threatened by others and without the need to threaten others.”


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Pope Francis: Treat others with dignity, not as objects

June 10, 2023 Catholic News Agency 7
Young people from around the world held hands in St. Peter’s Square during the #NotAlone human fraternity event June 10, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 10, 2023 / 11:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said in a message Saturday that others should be treated with dignity and respect, not as objects to exploit or throw away.

The pope’s speech was read aloud at a live-streamed event on human fraternity, sponsored by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, held in St. Peter’s Square June 10. Pope Francis was scheduled to attend before being hospitalized on Wednesday for an abdominal surgery.

“Even though I am unable to greet you in person, I would like to welcome and thank you wholeheartedly for coming,” Francis said in the message, read by Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and president of the Fratelli Tutti Foundation.

“In the encyclical Fratelli tutti,” the pope said, “I wrote: ‘Fraternity necessarily calls for something greater, which in turn enhances freedom and equality,’ since the one who sees the other as a brother or sister sees in him or her a face, not a number.”

“The other is always ‘someone’ who has dignity and merits respect, and not ‘something’ to be used, exploited or thrown away,” he added.

The June 10 event, called “#Not Alone,” was centered on the signing of a declaration on human fraternity drafted by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners together with representatives of former Nobel Prize-winning organizations.

“United with Pope Francis, we want to reaffirm that ‘authentic reconciliation does not flee from conflict, but is achieved in conflict, resolving it through dialogue and open, honest and patient negotiation’ (Fratelli Tutti, n. 244). All this within the context of the human rights framework,” the declaration says.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, signed the document in Pope Francis’ place June 10.

After the signing of the document, young people representing different countries formed “a symbolic embrace” by joining hands in a ring around St. Peter’s Square.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin signs a declaration on human fraternity on behalf of Pope Francis while Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and other Nobel laureates, look on, during the #NotAlone human fraternity event in St. Peter's Square June 10, 2023. Vatican Media.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin signs a declaration on human fraternity on behalf of Pope Francis while Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and other Nobel laureates, look on, during the #NotAlone human fraternity event in St. Peter’s Square June 10, 2023. Vatican Media.

The six-hour event included speeches, testimonies, performances by Italian music artists — including Grammy-winner Andrea Bocelli — and circus performers.

Nobel laureates in attendance included Iraqi human rights advocate Nadia Murad, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, and Yemeni Arab Spring leader Tawakkol Karman.

The former presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Poland, and Democratic Republic of East Timor — all peace prize winners — also participated, as well as representatives of several U.N. organizations that have been past recipients.

“In our world torn apart by violence and war, tweaks and adjustments are not enough,” Pope Francis said in his message. “Only a great spiritual and social covenant born from the heart and centered on fraternity can restore the sacredness and inviolability of human dignity as the core of relationships.”

“This does not require theories on fraternity but concrete gestures and shared decisions that make it a culture of peace,” he continued. “The question to ask ourselves is not what society and the world can give me, but what can I give to my brothers and sisters.”

“When we return home, let us think of some concrete gesture of fraternity that we can make: reconciling with family members, friends and neighbors, praying for those who hurt us, recognizing and helping those in need, speaking words of peace at school, university or in society, ‘anointing’ with closeness those who feel alone,” he said.