This morning the Holy Father met members from the Episcopal Conference of Iran, which is comprised of bishops from the Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Catholic Churches. During the meeting, Pope Benedict urged Catholics in Iran to not only remain “steadfast in the faith of their fathers,” but to also encourage peace among nations.”
After pointing out the diversity in the Catholic community in Iran, Pope Benedict addressed the bishops, who were concluding their “ad liminia” visit, saying that “today, as before, the Catholic Church continues to encourage all who are concerned with the common good and peace among nations. For its part, Iran, the bridge between the Middle East and sub-continental Asia, also will not fail to fulfill this vocation.”
As he typically does, the Pope then offered a survey of the various parts of the local Catholic Church.
After thanking the priests and religious of the country for their efforts in helping earthquake victims in the region of Bam, he turned his attention to the laity.
“Nor do I wish to forget the Catholic faithful whose presence in the land of their ancestors brings to mind the biblical image of the yeast in the dough, which makes the bread rise and gives it flavor and texture," the Pope said. He also encouraged Iranian Catholics to "continue steadfast in the faith of their fathers and to remain rooted in their land, so as to collaborate in the development of the nation."
Further addressing the diversity of the Iranian Catholics, the Holy Father told the prelates, “Although your various communities live in different situations, some of your problems are shared. It is necessary to develop harmonious relations with public institutions which, with the grace of God, will certainly become more profound and enable those communities better to carry out their ecclesial mission, while upholding mutual respect.”
“I invite you to promote all initiatives that may favor better reciprocal knowledge. There are two avenues to be explored: cultural dialogue, which is the centuries-old richness of Iran, and charity.”
"The road before you is long and requires perseverance and patience,” the Pope said as he encouraged them to look to the example of God, “patient and merciful with His people.”
"Your Churches are heirs to a noble tradition and to a long Christian presence in Iran,” Pope Benedict concluded. "They have, each it its own way, contributed to the life and development of the nation, and they wish to continue their efforts in the service of Iran, while conserving their own identity and freely living their faith."
Christians number around 10,000 in Iran out of a population of 70 million, most of whom are Muslim.