VATICAN CITY – Respect for a person’s relationship with God is essential to peace, Pope Benedict XVI said in a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Respect for the “transcendent dimension of the human person is an indispensable condition for the construction of a just social order and a stable peace”, the pope wrote to the Iranian leader.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran gave the letter to Ahmadinejad on Nov 9 during a meeting in Tehran. The Vatican released a copy of the letter two days later. Pope Benedict told the Iranian leader that during the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October, Church leaders reflected “on the great challenges placed before the Christian communities” in the region.

In some countries, the pope said, Christians face “discrimination and even violence and they lack the freedom to live and publicly profess their faith”. Catholics in Iran and throughout the region, he said, want to work with fellow citizens to promote the common good and they are committed to build peace and reconciliation.

He asked the Iranian president to launch a bilateral commission that could address “questions of common concern, including that of the juridical status of the Catholic Church in the country”.

In October, an Iranian official delivered a letter from Ahmadinejad to Pope Benedict in which the president said he hoped to work closely with the Vatican to help stem religious intolerance, the breakup of families and the increase of secularism and materialism. - CNS

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