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Vatican Condemns Quran Burning

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A U.S. church's plan to burn a copy of the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks has drawn global condemnation.  The Vatican has denounced the plan as "outrageous and grave."

The Vatican office responsible for relations with Islam issued a stern statement saying every religion has the right to respect and protect its sacred books, places of worship and symbols.

While deploring the September 11 terror attacks, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said they "cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community."

Pastor Terry Jones of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, has said he will go ahead with plans to burn copies of Islam's holy book this weekend, despite opposition.

Pastor Jones said he is determined to go ahead because this is a very important message to radical Islam, whom he considers "the enemy."  He said it has a growing influence around the world and cannot do (in the U.S.) what it appears to be doing in Europe.

"They appear to begin, as they grow in numbers, to push their agenda, to push real law," said Jones.  "What we are saying to them is that if they are in America they need to respect, honor and obey our constitution and not slowly try to push their agenda upon us."

Pastor Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a 40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God.  The 58-year-old minister proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn-a-Quran Day."

The planned Quran-burning by the small Florida church sparked protests this week by several-hundred Afghans in Kabul.  They chanted "Death to America."

The head of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, expressed concern and outrage "in the strongest possible terms."  He said, "If such an abhorrent act were to be implemented, it would only contribute to fueling the arguments of those who are indeed against peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan."

And two of the top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have said the plan risked undermining U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to reach out to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.

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