John Paul II and Iranian Envoy Discuss Mideast

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 ( John Paul II and a special envoy of Iran’s president huddled for talks that focused “on the need to safeguard peace in the Middle East region.”

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At the private meeting in the Vatican, Seyyed Mohammed Reza Khatami, vice president of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, brought a message from his brother, President Mohammed Khatami, to the Pope “on this very serious subject,” the Vatican Press Office said in a statement.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said that there was “a productive dialogue concerning the living conditions and activities of the Catholic communities in the country.”

The Iranian representative then met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states.

John Paul II has given support to Khatami’s initiative of “Dialogue Between Civilizations and Cultures,” ever since it was explained to him personally in the Vatican in 1998.

Khatami was the author of the proposal to the United Nations to proclaim 2001 the Year of Dialogue Between Civilizations.

Of Iran’s more than 66.5 million inhabitants, 99% are Muslim, the majority Shiite. The Christian community numbers some 250,000 people.

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