In comments which I have come across on the internet, this picture is thought to be very scandalous as it appears to show Pope St John Paul II kissing the Qur'an.

An image appearing to show Pope St John Paul II kissing the Qur'an

Have the Vatican issued a document to clarify the story behind the picture or explain his actions?

  • Strange days indeed. – gideon marx Jan 19 '15 at 18:59
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The book that the pope appears to be kissing looks like no Qur'an I have ever seen. The symbol on the cover is enough like that on the cover of my own copy of the Qur'an (no I am not a Muslim), but does not seem to be identifiably Islamic. The problem with identity is that the 'book' looks more like a binder or outer cover - when you zoom in, it seems to be enclosed on both edges, whereas a Qur'an is not normally presented in this way. It may be that Pope St. John Paul II was simply following traditional Arabic custom by kissing a gift presented to him, whatever was held in that binder. Nevertheless at least one website claims authenticity for the event:

At the end of the audience the Pope bowed to the Muslim holy book, the Qu'ran, 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.

The question becomes one of whether it is appropriate for the pope to show respect for members of another religion and for its holy book. The Second Vatican Council issued, in 1965, Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World. Part I, chapter II (28) states:

Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them. [My emphasis]

Either way, it appears the Vatican has not seen it necessary to post an explanation of the photograph. I think we should give the pope the benefit of the doubt and believe that he acted with propriety and sensitivity to the feelings of the Catholic community he leads.

  • The story does seem to be legit: traditioninaction.org/RevolutionPhotos/A055rcKoran.htm But then all the links I've found are on fairly dodgy looking sites. – curiousdannii Jan 18 '15 at 23:37
  • Kissing would normally be considered a step above respect. Wouldn't many Catholics call their kissing of relics veneration? (A step below worship itself) – curiousdannii Jan 19 '15 at 0:22
  • @DickHarfield Thank you for your research and answer. Perhaps just the person to fight them commbox wars! – user13992 Jan 19 '15 at 0:24
  • @curiousdannii The article from your TraditionInAction.org link is legit. See my answer here. – Geremia Jan 19 '15 at 2:39

This Catholic World News article is the closest I've seen to an "official" pronouncement regarding his kissing the Koran:

At the end of the audience the Pope bowed to the Muslim holy book, the Qu'ran, 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.

  • This article is from exactly the same organisation as I used, just a different page. The article may well be legit, but it does not confirm the report when the same lay organisation to reprints it. And being a lay organisation, it is not an official pronouncement. – Dick Harfield Jan 19 '15 at 4:04

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