On June 8, 2014 — Pentecost Sunday — the Vatican hosted an “interfaith event” that included prayers by Christian priests, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim imam. The occasion was well-publicized in advance by the Holy See as a “pause in politics” that would promote peace between the Israel and the Palestinians.
During his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority the previous month, Pope Francis had invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to attend the event. Both leaders accepted the invitation, and sat with the Pope while prayers were said and chanted in the Vatican garden.
The imam, however, went beyond the script that had been handed to the Vatican in advance. He included in his chanted prayer verses 284-286 of Sura 2 in the Koran, the last part of which calls for Allah to grant the Muslims victory over the infidels. His words were broadcast live to a television audience, but they were in Arabic, so most non-Muslim viewers had no idea what he had said.
This apparently included the Vatican hierarchy. When someone who did understand Arabic pointed out what had happened, a Vatican spokesman at first denied that any such thing had occurred. Those verses weren’t in the advance script — how could he possibly have said them? No Muslim, especially a respected imam, would ever go back on his word!
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