Pope expresses ‘spiritual closeness’ to Iran after death of president in helicopter crash

Iran president Raisi People participate in a funeral procession of president Ebrahim Raisi and his seven aides in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, on May 21, 2024. | Credit: Photo by AZIN HAGHIGHI/MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis on Monday offered prayers to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the country’s president was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was among eight killed in the Iranian Air Force helicopter crash in the country’s East Azerbaijan Province on May 19.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also among those killed. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. 

In a telegram signed by Pope Francis on Monday, the Holy Father wrote that he sent “condolences upon the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and all who perished” in the disaster.

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and with prayers for those who mourn their loss, especially their families, I send the assurance of spiritual closeness to the nation at this difficult time,” the pope said. 

The letter was addressed to Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic. 

The Holy Father had spoken with Raisi last November about a month after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. In that discussion, the Iranian president reportedly asked the pope to use his influence to bring an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza. 

Raisi reportedly also asked the pope to “correctly explain the position of the oppressor and the oppressed” in the conflict. Iran and Israel have been engaged in a decades-long “proxy war.” 

Amir-Abdollahian, meanwhile, spoke with Vatican foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher in October, with the two diplomats also discussing the Israel-Hamas war. 

Mohammad Mokhber, formerly the vice president of Iran, is currently serving as acting president of the country following Raisi’s death. 

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