US Bishops, Iranian Religious Leaders Call for Culture of Tolerance, Dialogue

Joint statement released after days of meeting in Rome

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A joint declaration issued Wednesday by U.S. Catholic bishops and Iranian religious leaders calls for developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others. The leaders regard the development and use of weapons of mass destruction and acts of terrorism as “immoral.”

The declaration was issued following a moral dialogue, which took place June 5-10, in Rome, Italy. The dialogue sought to build a sustainable channel of effective communication between American and Iranian religious leaders to foster greater mutual understanding and constructive engagement. The interreligious encounter focused on the moral tenets of each faith, especially as they relate to human rights, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism.

Representatives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) participating in the dialogue included Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington; Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; and Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. The five member Iranian delegation was headed by Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Moghaddam Tehrani and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoost. This dialogue built on an earlier meeting that was held in Qom in March 2014, which focused on the need for a world free of nuclear weapons.

“Today’s joint declaration is the fruit of sincere dialogue between two religions that are united in their concern for the life and dignity of the human person,” said Bishop Cantú. “Together, we commit ourselves to continued dialogue on the most pressing issues facing the human family, such as poverty, injustice, intolerance, terrorism, and war.”

The declaration is signed by Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars and president of Al-Mustafa International University; Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the International Affairs Office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars; Bishop Oscar Cantú; and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

The full text of the joint declaration is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/joint-declaration-of-us-and-iranian-religious-leaders-2016-08-18.cfm

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