Rorate, however, has received -- via a reader -- the following letter from Fr. Kiernan himself to clarify the story:
...I am always sorry when people are disturbed by actions of the church. There are a number of things it might be helpful to clarify in this situation. While I was not part of the planning and did not participate in the event, I’m happy to share with you some information.
First of all, the “Qu’ran blessed at California cathedral” was misconstrued and of course the event was not in the Cathedral building but merely on the steps allowing visibility from the square.
The term "blessed" has distinct meaning in our Catholic faith. There was no such action in that event. Unfortunately, the term which was used by a Presbyterian Minister and adopted by the media could be misunderstood. During the event some people went forward to place a rose on a table holding a copy of the Qu’ran which perhaps could mistakenly be seen by the unknowing as a "blessing." Also, it was stated that “During the ceremony, Father Michael Kiernan, rector of the cathedral, read from the Beatitudes.” I did not read anything and did not even participate in the event. The facts are as follows:
The Interfaith Service Bureau (ISB) of Sacramento made up of many denominations planned an event for the public square not owned by the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The previous Sunday, a wonderful presentation of the commemorative stamp of Blessed Teresa was held with our Bishop present in the same space. The ISB asked if they could use the Cathedral steps to allow people to see what would be going on in the square. Everything was outside the Cathedral on the steps and no one entered the sacred space. This was all the participation by the Catholic Church, except for a Franciscan priest from another parish, who read a short scripture passage. The event was brief, led by Dr. David Thompson, a Presbyterian Minister, who is President of the Interfaith Service Bureau. There was no opening prayer (hence no combined prayer) and there were no speeches of any kind. A few passages from the Qu’ran were read by various faith representatives. It lasted about 20 minutes after which those gathered sang a hymn "Let There Be Peace on Earth."
The purpose of the event was as follows:
· In anticipation of the burning of the Qu’ran, this interfaith gathering was intended as a statement by religious leaders that religious intolerance has no place in Sacramento and that the pain of 9/11 is felt by Americans of all faiths and nationalities, Christians, Jews, Muslims , Hindus, Sikhs and people of goodwill in all religions.
· As both President Bush and President Obama have reminded us, the United States is not at war with Islam but with Islamic Fundamentalists who have taken an even higher toll on their own people in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is a fundamentally different thing.
· One doesn’t have to be a Muslim to feel the hatred and disrespect shown by burning a Qur’an. Of course, some Christians do not enjoy the same freedom to practice their religion in Islamic countries but that is beside the point. The United States is called to be different. Millions of people have come to this country to find religious freedom. Our Muslim neighbors are no different. Freedom and tolerance are cherished American values. When anyone here is under attack, we need to hold them closer than ever.
· The interfaith meeting in the front of the Cathedral is not an “endorsement” of Islam but an expression of care and concern for our Muslim neighbors here in Sacramento as we would care for any other religious group with respect and sensitivity.
I hope this clarifies matters for you. Most of the information came from the secular press and was unfortunately presented by some sort of Catholic publications which should know better. It is sad that some in our church run with half-baked reports and assume the worst. Our dear Bishop Soto, the Diocese of Sacramento (and if I may humbly add, the Rector of the Cathedral) work hard do things correctly in every way as much as possible.
Finally, you know well how at the Cathedral we celebrate with reverence and respect in accordance with the Church teachings which guide us in all things at the Cathedral. Let us pray for each other, our holy Church and all whom God has created. God bless you in Jesus, our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother.
Rev. Michael F. Kiernan