Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vatican Condemns Burning of Koran by Florida Pastor

In Rome today, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a strong statement (and here) condemning the plan of Florida evangelical pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Koran on 11 September, to commemorate the 9/11 attacks in New York.  The Vatican statement characterizes the plan to burn the Koran as "an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community." It also notes that "[e]ach 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."

Meanwhile, this week's editorial at America magazine focuses on the hysteria over the "ground-zero mosque."  This valuable statement notes that "political opportunists and assorted talk-radio and cable-TV barkers" like Catholic Newt Gingrich have deliberately fanned the flames of Islamophobic bigotry.

And this bigotry is reaping bitter fruit in acts of violence against Islamic places of worship and citizens in the U.S., turning us, America notes, into an image of "the crusading enemy of Islam that Al Qaeda claims it is."  The America editorial calls on political and religious leaders to "cease waffling on this issue and unequivocally support both the right of Muslim citizens to build a place of community and worship—open to all—and the appropriateness of building in proximity to a place where cunning and cruelty took the lives of so many."

Whether many members of the Catholic community in the U.S., such as Mr. Gingrich, will listen to the authentically Catholic voice of America and of the Vatican and stop inciting hate remains to be seen.   And perhaps the Vatican statement will enable the U.S. Catholic bishops, who, after all, have not hesitated to leap into political debates about health care for all citizens, to gain some moral fortitude and speak out against the violence.

The Koran burning is not, by the way, the first hate-fomenting initiative promoted by the Florida church pastored by Terry Jones.  As Joe Sudbay reports at America Blog Gay today, when Craig Lowe, an openly gay man, campaigned for mayor of Gainesville earlier this year, the church, Dove World, posted a sign on its grounds stating, "No Homo Mayor," and one of the church's pastors, Wayne Sapp, placed a video online in which he says,

Here is Gainesville, they're getting ready to have a runoff election between two candidates and one of them is openly a homo, gay, fag – whatever you want to call him, I don't care.  Bottom line is we cannot afford a homo mayor.

Lowe won the election.

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