VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI urged Iranian authorities on
Thursday to let Catholics have the priests and churches they need to
freely practice their faith in the country.
In comments to Iran’s
new ambassador to the Holy See, Benedict also urged Tehran to improve
the situation of all Christian minorities so they are better integrated
Human rights reports and Western governments say
Christians in Iran, like other minorities including Jews and
Zoroastrians, suffer arrests as well as discrimination by being kept
out of some jobs. The United States has labeled Iran a country of
particular concern for abuse of religious worshippers.
didn’t mention international concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions in
a speech accepting Ambassador Ali Akbar Naseri’s credentials. But the
ambassador referred to the issue, saying Tehran fully respected
international norms but protested efforts to block its right to pursue
a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
The ambassador also
complained to the pope about what he said was the increasing spread of
“Islamophobia” in the West and boasted that Iran’s presidential
elections — sharply criticized internationally — showed that it
embraced the principles of democracy.
Iran and the Holy See have had diplomatic relations for more than 50 years.