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In message to Ahmadinejad, Pope pushes for religious freedom

Catholic World News - November 11, 2010

In a message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Pope Benedict XVI says that man’s relationship with God “is the ultimate foundation for the inalienable dignity and sacred character of every human life.”

The Pope’s message to the Iranian leader is a response to an earlier message in which the Iranian government sought Vatican collaboration in efforts to combat the forces of secularization. That message was widely interpreted as a bid by Iran to gain some support from the Vatican in its confrontation with European and American governments over the development of an Iranian nuclear capacity.

The Pope did not address the nuclear issue in his message, concentrating instead on religious issues and reminding the Iranian government of the key importance of respect for human rights, including religious freedom. He wrote:

When the promotion of the dignity of the human person is the primary inspiration of political and social activity that is committed to search for the common good, solid and enduring foundations are created for building peace and harmony between peoples.

The Pope’s message was hand-delivered to Ahmadinejad by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran on November 9. The text of the letter was made public by the Vatican on November 11. Cardinal Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, is in Iran for talks with Shi’ite Muslim leaders.

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