Papal Visit to Iran Being Considered

Vatican Aide Is in Islamic Country

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 4, 2001 ( A Vatican aide who is meeting with officials in Iran will look into the possibility of a papal trip to this Islamic nation, a report says.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced Saturday that Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, had arrived in Iran the same day to meet with the country´s highest authorities and with the Catholic community.

The visit is in response to «an invitation from governmental authorities and the local bishops´ conference,» Navarro-Valls said. While in Iran, Archbishop Tauran will give a conference at the Iranian Diplomatic Institute.

The archbishop also will meet numerous Christian communities residing in Iran. Today, Archbishop Tauran offered Mass in St. Joan of Arc Church in Tehran.

Two years ago, John Paul II received Iranian President Mohammad Jatami, a moderate Muslim cleric, in the Vatican. The meeting was part of a first series of state visits of an Iranian leader to Western Europe since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In statements published by Associated Press, Navarro-Valls explained that Archbishop Tauran´s visit is also to explore the possibility of a papal visit to the country. This nation of 65 million people has only about 120,000 Christians, including 12,000 Catholics.

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