Pope Benedict XVI to meet Iranian delegation

Iran Materials 30 April 2008 15:17 (UTC +04:00)

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled later Wednesday to meet a delegation representing Iran's Shiite Muslim religious majority, reported the dpa.

"Both Iran and the Vatican have religious governments, so there are many issues the two states have in common, such as morality," M. Anvarian, spokesman for Iran's Embassy to Vatican, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The eight members of the delegation from Iran's Islamic Culture and Relations Organization arrived in Rome on Monday for bilateral talks with the Vatican.

The visit marks the sixth round of such talks between the Islamic Republic and the Holy See on religious issues since 1996, the embassy spokesman said.

The delegation headed by Iranian cleric M. Mostafavi was scheduled to meet the pontiff shortly after noon, following Benedict's traditional Wednesday general audience.

A joint statement following the meeting was "likely", Anvarian said, adding he could not comment on whether the talks would deal with problems affecting the Vatican's dialogue with Islam.

Iranian authorities joined many Muslims around the world in criticizing remarks made by Benedict during a 2006 visit to Regensburg, Germany in which he appeared to link Islam to violence.

Relations between Tehran and the Vatican have improved since and in February Iranian foreign minister, Manoucher Mottaki suggested the formation of a "permanent committee for dialogue between the Vatican and Iran."