Did the Pope Kiss the Koran?

Harry Potter & Narnia & Darby O'Gill

Dear Catholic Exchange:

You recently (November 22 or 23rd?) had an extremely great article about Harry Potter vs. Chronicles of Narnia and Darby O'Gill and the Good People&#0151as to the difference among the approach to “fantasy” and “magic” as taken by each.

This was a great reply for those who are constantly comparing the authors. Can you find it for me and send me the source/link? Thanks so very much.

God Bless you and the great apostolate you are.

Lucia Bartoli

Dear Ms. Bartoli:

Here it is: “The Catholic Answer to Harry Potter,” by Jim Bemis.

To find it yourself on the site simply click on the day's lead story and locate it in the archive in the left-hand column. We appreciate your feedback and support of Catholic Exchange.

In Christ,

Tom Allen

Editor & President

Catholic Exchange

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I was searching for a particular story of the Pope kissing the Koran.

I believe it occurred in the Spring of 2001. I still haven't found the article. But many anti-Catholics have told me about it.

Do you know where I could find this story?


Dear Rick:

You can find it in an interview with His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, in Fides.

It's online at here.

Here is the relevant question and answer from the interview:

At what point are preparations for a Papal visit to Iraq?

It is known that Pope John Paul II has often voiced a desire to make a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Abraham, the common father of Jews, Christians and Muslims. For the Pope, Abraham is a figure which helps the unity of believers to overcome political divisions. On May 14th I was received by the Pope, together with a delegation composed of the Shiite imam of Khadum mosque and the Sunni President of the council of administration of the Iraqi Islamic Bank. There was also a representative of the Iraqi ministry of religion. I renewed our invitation to the Pope because his visit would be for us a grace from heaven. It would confirm the faith of Christians and prove the Pope's love for the whole of humanity in a country which is mainly Muslim. At the end of the audience the Pope bowed to the Muslim holy book the Koran presented to him by the delegation and he kissed it as a sign of respect. The photo of that gesture has been shown repeatedly on Iraqi television and it demonstrates that the Pope is not only aware of the suffering of the Iraqi people, he has also great respect for Islam. A papal visit would be welcomed by both the people and by the authorities. After the audience I immediately sent a recommendation to the Iraqi government to make the official step of inviting the Pope to Iraq.

Bottom line: the Pope was making a gesture of respect to Islam and the the people of Iraq. Pope haters, whether fundamentalist Protestants or fundamentalist Catholics, see in this gesture all sorts of wild phantasms of their own imagining and, like armchair quarterbacks, are eager to give free punditry on the alleged sinister meaning of this gesture.

However, the Catholic patriarch whose flock actually lives in the country under Islamic rule and who is perhaps a bit closer to knowledge of the situation of the Church in the Islamic world than American couch potatoes at computer keyboards thought a) that this in no way signaled the abandonment of the gospel by John Paul and b) that Muslims understood it as the gesture of respect it was.

Essentially, John Paul's gesture underscored the teaching of Nostra Aetate which reads in part:

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.

3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

Hope this helps!

Mark Shea

Senior Content Editor

Catholic Exchange

Mark Shea's Advice on Studying the Bible

Dear Catholic Exchange:

Thank you for making such interesting documents available to me. I have often heard of the Early Fathers but didn't know much about them and it was great to see articles about them in your website.

I intend studying the bible with the help of your articles. Can you advise me in what order I should study the books of the Bible bearing in mind I will be using your resources?

Thank you,


Dear Antoinette:

Glad you enjoyed our patristic articles!

I would suggest you get linked up with two resources. The first is my book Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did and the second is our Catholic Scripture Study.

Making Senses takes you on a flyover of the Big Picture of biblical revelation and then introduces you to the concept of the Four Senses of Scripture, which is the way the Church has read its Bible for two millennia. Once you've got that under your belt, I'd recommend you check out Catholic Scripture Study at Catholic Exchange. Currently, the best book to start with would be Romans. In the future, we will be posting past studies, including our study of Matthew, which would be an excellent place to continue. Also, we will soon begin our study of Genesis.

Another resource to look at is Jeff Cavins' Bible Timeline, which takes you through the story of Scripture in chronological sequence. I would recommend contacting Jeff at [email protected] to ask him for further information.

Hope this is helpful!

Mark Shea

Senior Content Editor

Catholic Exchange

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