The publication of the Farsi language edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church may foster further interreligious dialogue in Iran, although this will depend on the commitment of local communities, a Vatican official said.

Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stressed Jan. 12 that "time will tell if this translation into Farsi of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help to foster the culture of the encounter, (which is) so close to the Pope's heart."

However, he added that "much will depend on the availability and openness of local communities, first of all of Christian Churches," that will have the opportunity to use this Farsi edition of the Catechism "to present, in a balanced and unequivocal way, the contents of faith to members of other religious traditions, especially to representatives of the diverse Islamic world of Iran."

The Farsi edition of the Catechism of Catholic Church was presented Jan. 12 at the Gregorian University in Rome. It includes a foreword by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Sponsored by the University of Religions and Denominations of Qom, Iran, the idea behind the translation of Catholic texts into Farsi arose in a context of increased interreligious dialogue carried forward by Shi'ite Islam.

"That Iran and Iranian religious authorities have decided to translate many texts proves that they are opening to the Western world and to Christianity, and especially to Catholic Christianity," Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J., expert on Islamic studies, told CNA Jan. 13.

This is why "many texts of Catholic tradition, including 'City of God' by St. Augustine, have been translated into Farsi," recounted Fr. Khalil.

Shi'ites make up some 15 percent of Muslims in the world, and the city of Qom is one of the 'holy centers' for this Muslim confession.

The shrine of Qom, where the corpse of the eighth shi'ite imam's wife is buried, is visited by 15 million people per year. More than 100 studies centers are established in Qom, and there are between 50 and 60 thousand scholars of Quran and Islam, out of 1 million inhabitants. Two thousand of these scholars are committed to studying other religious, as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Presenting the new translation, Hojjat ol Eslam va ol Moslemin Sayyed Abolhassan Navvab, rector of the University of Religions and Denominations, explained that "many steps have been made to promote better relations between Islam and Christianity."

However, he also cautioned that some "dialogues are merely (being) held for their own sake and not for being influential, reducing disbelief."

"I ask for Catholic cooperation to build fruitful dialogue," he concluded.

Professor Ahmad Reza Meftah directed the project of translation. The professor explained that the English edition of the Catechism was the "reference edition," but the translation was then refined and polished by an Italian Catholic who speaks Farsi fluently, and who also compared the translation with the original version in Latin.

According to Roberto Catalano, director of the Interreligious Dialogue department of the Focolari movement, the Farsi edition of the Catechism "will help to bypass some difficulties in fostering interreligious dialogue."

The biggest of these difficulties is that "Farsi is the official language in Iran, but it cannot be officially used by the Church in Iran. Christians in Iran are allowed to use, according to Iranian law, Armenian, Chaldean, Latin, English and Italian, but not Farsi, in order to avoid the possibility of any proselytism," Catalano shared with CNA Jan. 10.

As the Farsi edition of Catechism has been published, now the scholars of Qom will be able to study Christianity from an original text.

As Fr. Ayuso put it, "dialogue is possible if we strain to understand the others, and – even before – if we strain to understand ourselves, beyond schemes and stereotypes that push us to engage in conflict."

He then added that "hermeneutic is a tool that applies human reason to God's saying, not in order to manipulate or bias it, but in order to shed light to its inner sense."