VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Asked about the burning of the Quran in Sweden, Pope Francis, in an interview excerpt published Monday (July 3), underlined that freedom of expression must never be used against others and encouraged interfaith dialogue.
A 37-year-old man with Iraqi origins, Salwan Momika, kicked the Quran and placed a slice of bacon on it before burning it in front of a mosque in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 28, causing an uproar from the Muslim community in Europe and beyond. Asked for a reaction to the event by Al-Ittihad, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis said he is “outraged and disgusted by such actions.”
The interview with Pope Francis will be published in its entirety on Tuesday (July 4).
“Any book that is considered sacred to its authors must be respected out of respect for its believers and freedom of expression must never be used as an excuse to undermine others,” the pope said. Anyone who allows these acts must be “refuted and condemned,” the pope said.
The burning of the Quran had been initially allowed by the local government, but Swedish authorities have now taken a step back and condemned the act as “Islamophobia.”
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which represents Muslims from 57 countries, publicly condemned the act and asked the Swedish state to take action to prevent such events from happening again.
In 2019, Pope Francis, along with the Sunni Grand Imam of Al Azhar, cosigned a Document on Human Fraternity, promoting tolerance and peace among people of faith. It was considered a watershed moment for relations between the two religions.
“Human fraternity is the antidote that the world needs to heal from the poison of these wounds,” Francis said in response to the Quran burning.
“The future of interreligious cooperation is founded on the principle of reciprocity, of respect for one another and of truth,” he added.