· Vatican City ·

In an interview with the Director of the United Arab Emirates’ daily ‘Al-Ittihad’

Pope Francis’ outrage over Qur’an burning in Sweden

A supporter of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr holds up the Koran during a protest following Friday ...
07 July 2023

“I feel outraged and disgusted by these actions”, Pope Francis said in an interview with Hamad Al-Kaabi, Director of the United Arab Emirates’ daily, “Al-Ittihad”, about the recent burning of pages of the Qur’an in Sweden. “Any book considered sacred by its people must be respected out of respect for its believers, and freedom of expression must never be used as an excuse to despise others”. This, he stressed, “must be rejected and condemned”.

Pope Francis also spoke about his health after his recent abdominal surgery. “It was difficult, but now, thanks be to God, I am better, thanks to the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and nursing staff, whom I thank greatly”, he said, adding that he prays “for them and their families, and for all the people who wrote to me and prayed for me during these days”.

Recalling his 2019 visit to Abu Dhabi, the Holy Father commended the commitment of the United Arab Emirates and of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed in the journey undertaken to spread fraternity, peace and tolerance. He also expressed his appreciation for the opening of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, a space which houses a Church dedicated to Saint Francis, a mosque and a synagogue, built to fulfil the principle of human fraternity.

Pope Francis highlighted the importance of young people on the journey of fraternity, and called on adults not to leave young people at the mercy of mirages and clashes of civilizations: “In my opinion, the only way to protect young people from negative messages and false and fabricated news, and from the temptations of materialism, hatred and prejudice, is to not leave them alone in this battle, but rather to give them the necessary tools, which are freedom, discernment and responsibility”. Indeed, he continued, “freedom is what distinguishes a person. God created us free even to reject him. Freedom of thought and expression are essential to help them grow and learn”. The Pope warned against the danger of treating young people as children, as if they were “incapable of choosing and making decisions. They are the present, and investing in them means guaranteeing continuity”, he explained.

The Holy Father said he was pleased that the global community had welcomed the Document’s message and objectives, adding that he always gives a copy of it to the delegations he receives in the Vatican: “I think it is an important text not only for dialogue among religions, but also for peaceful co-existence among all human beings”. Ultimately, he continued, “there will either be a civilization of fraternity or one of hostility. We will either build the future together or there will be no future”.

“Human fraternity is the antidote the world needs to heal from the poison of these wounds. The future of interreligious cooperation is based on the principle of reciprocity, of respect for others and of truth”, he noted.

“Our task is to transform the religious sense into cooperation, fraternity and concrete good works”, he underlined. “Today, we need peace builders, not weapons manufacturers; today we are in need of builders of peace, not instigators of conflicts; we need firefighters, not arsonists; we need advocates of reconciliation, not people who make threats of destruction”.

Speaking about practical commitments in this direction, he welcomed the charitable initiatives that were launched after the document was published. “It is easy to speak about fraternity”, he said, “but the true measure of fraternity is what we really do in a concrete way to help, support, aid, nourish and welcome my brothers and sisters in humanity. All good by its very nature should be aimed at everyone without distinction”.

In response to a question on the increase of terrorist threats, Pope Francis quoted from the Document: we condemn “all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human organ trafficking, abortion and euthanasia. We likewise condemn the policies that promote these practices”.

Lastly, speaking about the environmental and climate crisis, the Holy Father said that the only effective way to face this crisis is to turn declarations into actions before it is too late.