Pope: Iran should work for peace

moghimi200901171427248751.jpgPope Benedict XVI
The Pope says Iran should work for peace in the Middle East, calling for the expansion of ties between Iran and the Catholic Church.

“The Catholic Church never ceases to encourage all those who have at heart the common good and peace between nations,” the Pope said in a meeting with Iranian bishops on Friday.

“Iran, a bridge between the Middle East and subcontinental Asia, will certainly not fail to follow this vocation,” Ansa news agency quoted him as saying.

The Pope’s meeting with Iranian bishops comes a week after the Holy See severely criticized the Israeli offensive against Gaza, lamenting ‘a renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population’.

The Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have so far claimed the lives of about 1,200 Palestinians and injured more than 5,300.

Iran has condemned what it calls the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called for establishing a war crimes tribunal to try Israeli officials for their crimes in Gaza.

Pope Benedict said the Catholic Church should ‘develop harmonious relations’ with Iran’s public institutions through cultural and charity efforts.

He also urged the Iranian bishops, led by the Chaldean archbishop of Tehran Ramzi Garmou, to ‘remain attached to their land’ to help develop the country.

Of the approximately 100,000 Christians in Iran, 25,000 are Catholics, divided among the Chaldean, Armenian and Latin churches.