TEHRAN (FNA)- A delegation of Iranian Muslim leaders this week visited the Vatican for a three-day seminar on “Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam” and a meeting with Pope Benedict XIV.
The gathering, part of an ongoing dialogue between Muslims and the Vatican, was the sixth such meeting between the two sides in more than a decade.
In a joint statement, participants in the seminar condemned the use of religion to justify violence – a point that Benedict himself made in a controversial 2006 speech in Germany that sparked a firestorm of protest across the Muslim world. Indeed, the Vatican said the pope was “especially pleased” with the seminar’s theme.
A statement by the eight-person Iranian delegation – members of Iran’s Center for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO) – said that the personal meeting with Benedict on April 30 yielded significant results.
The Iranians officials – who included Mahdi Mostafavi, head of ICRO and an adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – wrote in their closing statement that the pope had also appreciated them for a volume of the Holy Koran gifted by the Iranian delegation to the leader of Catholic Church.
“Thank you for the Koran, that is a very nice book and I’m glad to receive it,” the statement quoted Pope Benedict as saying during the meeting.
In their joint statement, the seminar participants agreed that “faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind” and “intrinsically nonviolent.” They added, “Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetuate violence.”
The Roman Catholic and Iranian delegation also urged that interreligious dialogue avoids easy generalizations. “Christians and Muslims,” the statement says, “are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs.” The statement adds, “Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy books.”
In March, the Vatican set up a permanent office for dialogue with Islam. The move was partly in response to a call last year by 138 Muslim scholars from around the world for dialogue with Christians, especially Catholics.
The talks with the Iranians, which began under former Pope John Paul II, will continue at regular intervals every two years. The next gathering is due to take place in Tehran in 2010.