05/04/2007, 00.00
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A dialogue between cultures in the meeting between the Pope and Khatami

Benedict XVI and the ex Iranian President spoke among other things about the Middle East and the current situation of Christians. A strong international commitment to serious negotiations which respect human rights and aims to build mutual trust is hoped for.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A “serene dialogue between cultures” in the service of peace and development between peoples.  This was the main theme that emerged from this morning’s meeting between Benedict XVI and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian president, who spoke privately for half an hour. 

Naturally the pope and Khatami also discussed the Middle East and the problem of Christians in the region and particularly in Iran.  “Regarding the Middle East, - reads a Holy See press office statement – the need for strong initiatives by the international community to set up serious negotiations – such as those at the summit meeting on Iraq now taking place in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt  - negotiations which take into consideration respect for international law and awareness that mutual trust needs to be rebuilt”.

 “Discussions – continues the Vatican note – dwelt on the importance of a serenedialogue between cultures intended to overcome the grave tensions that mark our times and the need to promote a serene and fruitful collaboration at the service of peace and of the development between peoples.  They also spoke about the conditions of the Christian community in the region and, regarding the Middle East and Iran”.

The former Iranian president was accompanied on his visit to Benedict XVI by five people.  At the end of discussions there was an exchange of gifts: Khatami offered the pope a series of Iranian paintings with symbolic images on the theme of peace, while the Pope presented him with an artists fountain pen commemorating the Vatican Museum’s 500 years.

During his Vatican visit Khatami also met with the Secretary of State Card, Tarcisio Bertone accompanied by Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the relations with states.

Informally the Vatican underlined the positive importance of Khatami’s visit today, which should have taken place last November but was postponed in the light of Islamic reaction to the Pope’s Regensburg address, which Khatami himself invited people to read in its integrity.

Before making his way to the Vatican today the ex Iranian president, who is taking part in the conference on “Intercultural dialogue: a challenge for peace” currently underway at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said: “. There are many wounds in today’s world and they are very deep and cannot heal that easily. But at least we are making a joint effort in order to start healing these wounds”.  “I hope that this meeting – he added – will draw us closer together so we can understand this world’s suffering and work together in the future”.

Khatami spoke for some length on relations between Islam and Christianity, of their reciprocal “mistrust”, explaining that the question of dialogue is not  “a religious precept or principal of faith”, rather “ a vital and urgent need which today has become the only way to realize peace and justice in the world”.


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