Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in which he calls for closer collaboration between religions.
It’s not the first time he has written to the pontiff. He also wrote to the Pope in 2006 as part of a letter-writing campaign to world leaders, including George W. Bush.
In his latest missive, the Iranian leader praised the Vatican's stance regarding the desecration of the Koran and called for more cooperation among religions to “stop the moral degradation of societies.”
"I offer my thanks to Your Excellency . . . for your condemnation of an unwise move by a Florida church in the US to desecrate the Holy Qur'an which saddened millions of Muslims across the world," the letter said, according to Iranian state broadcaster, Press TV.
"The disregard of man for the teachings of divine religions, which emanates from schools [of thoughts] such as secularism, Western extremist humanism, and the man's growing tendency toward material life . . . has been on the rise and paved the way for the decline of human society,” Ahmadinejad wrote. “Therefore, close cooperation and interaction among divine religions to halt such destructive moves is an absolute necessity."
He called on religious followers to lead the way in "establishing justice, uprooting oppression, and overcoming discriminatory practices." He also expressed Iran's readiness to further cooperate with the Vatican in order to stop acts of sacrilege, the spread Islamophobia, and the destabilization of families. He concluded that Iran is ready to help create a change in the current world order.
Iran’s vice president, Mohammad Reza Mirtajoddini, delivered Ahmadinejad’s message to Vatican officials during a visit on Tuesday.
It’s not clear why the Iranian president has chosen to write now, nor how or whether the Holy See will respond.
After his last letter, the Vatican released a statement stressing that the Holy See works towards world peace “not as a political authority but as a religious and moral one . . . so that peoples' problems will always be solved in dialogue, mutual understanding, and peace.”
Iran, which has had formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See since 1953, has a relatively large embassy to the Holy See in Rome and in the past has allied itself with Catholic Church in resisting certain issues at the United Nations, such as an international right to abortion. Ahmadinejad also seems to have genuine respect for Benedict XVI, coming to his defense after the Pope’s controversial Regensburg lecture in 2006.
However, the Holy See hasn’t held back from criticizing Iran when necessary, especially over Holocaust denial and the country’s nuclear ambitions.
Some believe that due to his favorability with both Iran and the United States, the Pope is in a keen position to act as a neutral mediator in resolving the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. But he’s unlikely to intervene in such a political dispute unless both sides request it.
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