The wife of jailed Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini made an unsuccessful attempt to gain audience with the Pope to spotlight her husband's desperate situation during Francis' visit to Washington, D.C.
She had hoped to arrange a meeting with the Pope in order to bring her husband's plight to the pontiff’s attention. Saeed Abedini is an Iranian American imprisoned in Iran, since 2012. He is one of four U.S. hostages in Iran.
“We did all we could to make it happen,” Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger told me on Sept. 24, referring to his attempts to arrange a meeting between the Pope and Naghmeh.
Because of Pittenger, Naghmeh will be in the audience Wednesday morning when Pope Francis delivers his historic address to a joint session of Congress. Several advocates for persecuted Christians in Syria and Iraq expressed hope to me that the pontiff will mention their plight and perhaps single her out for mention.
“I met her a year ago through Dr. Chadwick, our pastor at Forest Hill Church [in Charlotte],” Pittenger recalled. The Tarheel State Republican later joined with Democratic Rep. Joseph Kennedy, III in hosting a congressional reception in Washington for the pastor’s wife.
But, Pittenger added, he has had no luck in securing the pastor's wife the papal audience she so desperately wants. In his words, “we’ve written the Pope and the nunicature [embassy] of the Holy See.”
On the day of the Pope’s arrival at the White House, said Pittenger, “a meeting [with Mrs. Abedini] is in the hands of the Vatican.”
Although he has opposed President Obama on virtually every vote in Congress, Pittenger did have high praise for the president’s strong condemnation of religious persecution of Christians at the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at the White House.
“It’s the best statement he’s made on this critical issue so far,” said Pittenger. As for Pope Francis’ remarks, the congressman said “he led right out with climate change. I guess some people have a different perspective.”
A spokesman for the congressman told me “she would really like to meet with Pope Francis or President Obama to put a human face on her husband’s plight. She’s actually been fasting and praying for a few days, asking God to open a door."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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