Islamic Prayers to be Held at Vatican, For the First Time in History

Islamic prayers are to be held at the Vatican this Sunday. Pentecost Sunday.

For the first time in history, Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran will be heard at the Vatican on Sunday, in a move by Pope Francis to usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians…

Holy See officials on Friday said the evening prayers would be a “pause in politics” and had no political aim other than to rekindle the desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace at the political and popular level, according to the Associated Press….

The Vatican will broadcast a live feed of the event to viewers across the world.

Then there is the official statement from the Vatican:

(Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Friday, the head of the Holy See’s press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, announced details of a prayer encounter to be held on Sunday with the presidents of Israel and Palestine. Also attending the event will be the spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the encounter on May 25th during his brief but intense visit to the Holy Land.

“Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment.” Those were Pope Francis’ words to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents when he invited them to come to the Vatican to join him in “heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” Both leaders immediately accepted that invitation and will be arriving in the Vatican around 6.30pm on Sunday evening, accompanied by delegations of about 20 people representing the different faith communities present in both states. Also taking part in the Vatican delegation will be the Orthodox Patriarch who played such a central role in the Pope’s recent pilgrimage to Jerusalem to recall a similar encounter between their predecessors exactly half a century ago.

Following a brief welcome in the Casa Santa Marta where he lives, Pope Francis will accompany the two presidents and the patriarch through the Vatican gardens to a specially prepared venue surrounded by two tall hedges between the Pontifical Academy of Sciences building and a wing of the Vatican museums.

Fr Lombardi explained that each faith community will present a piece of music, then thank God for the gift of creation, ask forgiveness for sins committed and pray for the gift of peace. Pope Francis and the two presidents will add their own calls for peace in the region, before exchanging greetings, planting an olive tree as a visible symbol of their desire for an end to the conflict and sharing a moment of private conversation together.

Answering journalists’ questions about the aim of the encounter, Fr Pizzaballa said it is a purely religious event designed to provide space for people to stand back from the conflict and “recreate a desire for change”. While the meeting will not lead to any overnight solutions to the complex problems of the Middle East, Fr Pizzaballa said he hoped it might just reopen a path of dialogue and allow people to dream of a world where peace really is possible.

Between two tall hedges…



Muslims Riot on Temple Mount Before Rosh Hashanah

The Temple Mount. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.


Hours before Rosh Hashanah started in Israel, hundreds of Muslim worshippers threw rocks at police officers and Jewish visitors at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Wednesday morning, according to Israel Hayom. A large police force was summoned to the scene to calm the situation, and no injuries or damage were reported.

The officers managed to subdue the rioters, some of whom were wearing face masks. Many fled into nearby mosques when the police arrived. A large police presence remained on site, and entry to the Temple Mount was not restricted.

Police sources said that they were not surprised by the violence and that police had advance knowledge of plans to riot on the Temple Mount. Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said he planned to closely monitor the deployment of police units in the area over the course of the holiday.

The rock-throwing incident occurred one day after the head the northern chapter of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, was arrested on his way to a press conference in eastern Jerusalem. Police suspect that Salah meant to incite his followers to instigate violent clashes on the Temple Mount during the Jewish holiday.

Salah’s arrest was apparently in response to a speech the sheikh gave at Kafr Qara near Haifa. The outspoken cleric had accused Israel of being behind the recent political crisis in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. He also said the Jerusalem police force planned to torch the Temple Mount during the High Holy Days.


Italy: Muslims Defecated and Urinated by Altar

After stealing from the rectory and breaking into the Church. Fr Z:

From the Gazzetta di Mantova:

SERRAVALLE: First the broke in to the rectory at Libiola and stole money of the fund for the children of Grest; then, not satisfied, they went to the nearby church which, after last year’s earthquake, is a simple temporary structure of plastic and, next to the altar defecated and urinated.  It was a contemptuous, vandalic, and sacrilegious act.  Those responsible would also be identified, because a woman saw them leaving the tent.  Those concerned are four young men of Moroccan origin, one a resident of Serravalle, the others from Ostiglia and nearby towns.

The article goes into more details.  It ends with the priest:

In the meantime, a disappointed Fr. Eugenio [Ferrari] vented:

“If they had come to steal money because they were hungry, I wouldn’t have even gone to make the official complaint; I would have forgiven them.  But what they did in the church is a gesture you just can’t overlook, it is inexcusable.  … I’m sorry also because, as it seems, the deed was done by four young Moroccans.  The showed disdain for our religion.  But if I had done the same thing in one of their mosques, they’d cut my head off, no?”

Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.



Holy Land Franciscans Lament Ban on Co-ed Schools in Gaza

CNA reports:

A law in the Gaza Strip segregating classrooms by sex threatens the existence of Christian schools in the territory, according to the head of a Franciscan group that supports Christians in the Holy Land.

In April, the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian territory on Israel’s western border passed a law banning co-education for children above the age of nine. It also ensures that teachers and other staff are of the same sex as students.

“The goal is not integration but co-existence … and this recent ruling does not make that easy,” Father Peter Vasko, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, said of the relations between Muslims and Christians in Gaza.

The Gaza Strip has been ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas since 2007. Of the territory’s population of nearly 1.7 million, only 3,000 are Christians.

The ban on co-ed classrooms, due to take effect in September, will primarily affect Christian schools in the area. Most public schools, as well as those operated by the United Nations, are already sex-segregated according to Al Jazeera.

The law effectively threatens Christian schools in Gaza because of the prohibitive costs they will have to incur to provide for a substantial expansion in the number of classrooms and teachers.

“Having to close schools that are there for the very reason not only to educate but to encourage peace and cooperation among the various groups is very counterproductive,” Fr. Vasko said in a July 18 statement.

The statement added that the new law is “yet another threat to Christians in the Holy Land already under extreme pressure by both Israeli and Palestinian rule.”

Fr. Vasko said the co-existence of Muslims and Christians in the Gaza Strip means “we have to learn that each has their own identity but at the same time building positive relations together” and that “closing any Christian schools in the area would be a serious loss.”

Christians run five schools in the Gaza Strip, three of which are Catholic. Most of the students in the schools are Muslim.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem educates more than 1,000 Gazan children in their two schools in the territory, and the Rosary Sisters run another Catholic school in Gaza.

“We don’t have the space and we don’t have the money to divide our schools,” Fr. Faysal Hijazin, education director for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told the Catholic Herald last month.

“This will be a big problem.”



Muslim Cleric Given a Suspended Sentenced for Burning Bible

In the Huffington Post:

Ahmed Abdullah Bible Burning

A hard-line Muslim cleric received an 11-year suspended sentence Sunday for tearing up and burning a Bible, Egypt’s official news agency said.

Cairo’s Nasr City court sentenced Ahmed Abdullah and his son was given a suspended sentence of eight years over the same incident, the Middle East News Agency reported. The two were ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($700). The ruling can be appealed.

Abdullah ripped up a Bible and burned it during a Sept. 11 rally by ultraconservative Salafi Muslims in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, protesting an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.

It was a rare prosecution over attacks on faiths other than Islam. Over the past two years, attacks by extremist Muslims against followers of other religions, mostly Christians, have been on the increase.

According to Egyptian law, showing contempt toward Christianity, Islam and Judaism known as “heavenly” religions is a crime. Lawyers and rights groups complain the definition of contempt of religion is vague and has been used most often against critics of Islam.

Blasphemy charges were not uncommon in Egypt under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, after election victories by the Muslim Brotherhood and strong showings by the Salafis, who practice a form of the religion as they believe it existed around the seventh century.

Writers, activists and a television comedian have recently been charged with blasphemy, but Christians seem to be the favorite target of Islamist prosecutors. Abdullah’s case brought a rare sentence against a Muslim cleric.

In one of the most recent cases, a Coptic teacher was sentenced to pay a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,000) for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad while teaching.

Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, has become known for hate speech against Coptic Christians in his preaching. Last year, he launched new Islamic TV channel that is run primarily by women covered from head to toe with only their eyes showing. He is a frequent guest on other TV channels.



Death to Churches Under Islam

A study of the Coptic Church.

Christians throughout the Islamic world are under attack. Unlike Muslim attacks on Christians, which are regularly confused with a myriad of social factors, the ongoing attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim world are perhaps the most visible expression of Christian persecution under Islam. In churches, Christians throughout the Islamic world are simply being Christians—peacefully and apolitically worshipping their God. And yet modern day Muslim governments try to prevent them, Muslim mobs attack them, and Muslim jihadis massacre them.

To understand the nature of this perennial hostility, one must first examine Muslim doctrines concerning Christian churches; then look at how these teachings have manifested themselves in reality over the course of centuries; and finally look at how modern day attacks on Christian churches mirror the attacks of history, often in identical patterns. The continuity is undeniable.

Because tracing and documenting the treatment of churches across the thousands of miles of formerly Christian lands conquered by Islam is well beyond the purview of this study, a paradigm is needed. Accordingly, an examination of the treatment of Christian churches in Egypt suffices as a model for understanding the fate churches under Islamic dominion. Indeed, as one of the oldest and largest Muslim nations, with one of the oldest and largest Christian populations, Egypt is the ultimate paragon for understanding all aspects of Christianity under Islam, both past and present.

Muslim Doctrine Concerning Churches

Christians throughout the Islamic world are under attack. Unlike Muslim attacks on Christians, which are regularly confused with a myriad of social factors, the ongoing attacks on Christian churches in the Muslim world are perhaps the most visible expression of Christian persecution under Islam. In churches, Christians throughout the Islamic world are simply being Christians—peacefully and apolitically worshipping their God. And yet modern day Muslim governments try to prevent them, Muslim mobs attack them, and Muslim jihadis massacre them…

Do read on here.



Lego Accused of Being Anti-Islamic

So what do they do? Well, pull the toy of course:

What do Salman Rushdie and Lego have in common? They’ve both been accuse of ridiculing Islam. But while Rushdie’s crime was to write a book parodying the faith, Lego’s mistake to release a toy model that looks a bit like a building in a Muslim country. Don’t laugh: I’m sure this is how Nazism started.

Lego has announced that it’s pulling its infamous Jabba the Hutt-themed play set and insists that the toy has simply come to the end of its run. But Birol Kilic, head of the Turkish Cultural Association of Austria, is claiming glorious victory after a long campaign that accused Lego of fanning the flames of racism. Kilic says that Hutt’s palace looks eerily similar to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and that because Jabba is a villain this will reinforce negative attitudes towards Muslims…

Oh, please! Rest here.