Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An Iranian delegation will attend the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Mgr Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced yesterday at a press briefing. This followed a meeting in the Vatican with an Iranian delegation led by Ms Shahindokht Molaverdi, a vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the audience, the two sides discussed the issues of women and the family.
"I am particularly pleased," the prelate said, "that the meeting took place because not only [the Iranian delegation] invited me to Iran, but asked to come to Philadelphia and I immediately agreed. The family is not a Catholic heritage but a world heritage."
Yesterday's meeting between the Holy See and Iran was the first in a long series of meetings planned for the coming months. "We discussed problems related to the family and women in today's world," Mgr Paglia said. "Both sides totally agree that it is important to address them together. Today's globalisation requires us to understand that the family is part of humanity's heritage and that women are indispensable at all levels to address this issue."
For her part, Vice President Molaverdi said, "It was an enriching meeting in which we talked about important topics related to the family. The family faces similar, global challenges, which require cooperation, especially with a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran."
In 1994, at the UN conference in Cairo, the Holy See and Iran worked together against the ideology of "reproductive health", an alliance that helped stop making abortion a "normal" method of contraception.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Paglia looked at what has changed in the past 20 years. "In certain respects, the situation in the world has deteriorated. The original and indissoluble triptych that was God's gift to the world - marriage, family and life - has been broken today for the first time in history."
The prelate went on to say, "In today's hyper-individualistic culture the three are reassembled at will. For this reason, I think that all believers, all people of good will, must help each other to make it clear that the family - father, mother, children, generations - is inherent in history. All else is but individual self-indulgence. Whilst respecting and suggesting progress in the filed of civil and political rights, here we are faced with a heritage that, if unhinged, unhinges society."
In this sense, Mgr Paglia told AsiaNews that "the family is a crucial and fundamental resource for society, an asset for all cultures and religions. For this reason, we need an extraordinary alliance. Which does not mean getting into non-negotiable battles. The issue is whether we remain faithful to God's gift: marriage, family and life. This does not exclude the rest. But this is an absolutely original heritage".
In light of this, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family told AsiaNews that "deepening the relationship with a tradition like Iran's is absolutely something to hope for, something to do without hesitation and with determination. Islam is not a monolith; it is a universe made up of many different traditions. Each dialogue that goes in depth helps men and women understand each other more". It makes it easier "to find solutions to conflicts or [reduce] tensions that inevitably exist. We must re-build this dialogue through what I call a culture of encounter, which is what we need today."
After the meeting between the two delegations, Pope Francis received the Vice President of Iran yesterday morning. For Ms Shahindokht Molaverdi, the private audience "was an unforgettable moment. I know quite well his way of thinking. His teachings and religious precepts are very dynamic and adapted to the world we live in. The Holy Father stressed the need for greater female presence in the corridors of power."
The meeting with the pontiff was not limited to issues related to the family and women. "I really liked the Holy Father's condemnation of extremism and fundamentalism. I thanked him for all his efforts to resolve the crisis in the Middle East at the regional and global levels. He condemned the use and abuse of religion to carry out violence. This abuse in the name of God and these violent actions cannot be accepted by the followers of any religion. At the same time, it is unacceptable and reprehensible that some offend the beliefs and faith of others, providing a pretext for violence."
Pope Francis and Vice President Molaverdi also discussed Iran's nuclear programme. "The Holy Father said he was against the use of force to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. On the contrary, he advocates greater dialogue, expressing his support for negotiations."
Ms Molaverdi remained cautious on the possibility that the pope might act as a "bridge" to repair relations between the United States and Iran, as he did with Cuba. "The pope has the ability to bring nations closer together, and through this, perhaps he can influence governments. From my vantage point, I am optimistic. I would like to see Iran and the United States re-establish relations on their own, without bothering the Holy Father. However, for the successful completion of such negotiations, lifting sanctions can certainly have a great influence on the normalisation of relations between the United States and Iran. These unjust, dare I say, inhuman sanctions should be lifted." (GM)