Pope in dialogue with Iranian officials

Wed, Apr 30, 2008, 01:00

Pope Benedict today met Iranian officials who had attended a seminar that condemned the use of religion to justify violence.

Eight officials from Iran's Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation met the pope after attending his general audience.

They had been participating in talks with Roman Catholic officials on "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam", which concluded that faith and reason are both intrinsically non-violent.

"Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence. Unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence," a joint statement said.

Both sides expressed the need to cooperate, promote spirituality and encourage respect for sacred religious symbols.

"Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them," it said.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden recently accused the pope of being somehow linked to the publication of a Danish cartoon that depicted the Prophet Mohammad as a terrorist. The Vatican says the pope was quick to condemn the cartoon.

Catholic-Muslim relations nosedived in 2006 after Pope Benedict delivered a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, that was taken by Muslims to imply that Islam was violent and irrational.

Muslims around the world protested and the Pope, who said he did not agree with the Byzantine emperor he had quoted, sought to make amends by praying at a mosque in Istanbul.

The Vatican, which in 2006 criticised Iran's president for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, said the next interreligious meeting between Vatican and Iranian Muslim officials would be held in Tehran within the next two years.