Hizbullah’s officials, the Shiite terrorist group based in Lebanon, were hosted in Rome by the Vatican during the recent ceremony for the election of six new cardinals. Among the new cardinals is the Lebanese Patriarch, Bechara Boutros Rai.
As head of Lebanon’s Catholic Church, Rai recently sent his envoy, Father Abdo Abou Kassem, to Teheran to attend a conference in support of the Palestinian Arab Intifada and of a “Zionist-free middle east”. The conference was attended also by Hizbullah ideologue, Mohammad Raad, and by the Hamas’ leader Khaled Meshaal.
Cardinal Rai recently said in Paris that he supports Hizbullah’s war against Israel: “Only when the international community exerts pressure on Israel to vacate the occupied Lebanese territory and Israel allows Palestinians in Lebanon to return to their homes, can Hizbullah be asked to hand over its arms because they will no longer be needed”. It is not clear from the Cardinal’s remarks to which Lebanese territory he was referring, since Israel, in compliance with the UN, had withdrawn from its Lebanon buffer zone years earlier. Rai said his statements reflected the policy of the Vatican.
The coming of an Hizbullah delegation in Rome these days is part of a strong friendship that the Vatican is building with Iranian authorities. It might also be an explanation why during his trip in Austria, Pope Benedict chose not to address the Iranian nuclear question in a key speech to world diplomats in Vienna, which is the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency.The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Organization for Culture and Islamic Relations just held their eighth meeting in Rome, under the joint chairmanship of the Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Iranian Mohammad Bagher Korramshad. The theme of the meeting was “The Catholic and Muslim cooperation to promote justice in the contemporary world”.
An official note says that “the participants were pleased and honored to be received at the end of the meeting by Pope Benedict XVI, who greeted and encouraged them to continue on the path of authentic and fruitful dialogue”.
A delegation of clergy members of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly also visited the Vatican in Rome. They met with top Catholic officials. “We held talks with the Vatican’s culture minister over the conditions and the popular uprisings in the region and the Vatican minister said that popular uprisings are inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran”, a member of the parliament’s Clerics Commission, Hojjatoleslam Hossein Ebrahimi, told Fars News Agency.
Iran has a surprisingly large diplomatic corps at the Vatican (only the Dominican Republic has more diplomats accredited to the Holy See) who have a monthly meeting with the Pope’s advisers. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a high-level delegation to Rome, headed by Mahdi Mostafavi, the president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization in Tehran, a former foreign minister and one of Ahmadinejad’s trusted men and “spiritual advisers”, with whom he meets “at least twice a week”.
Last week, the Iranian embassy in Rome organised at the Salesian Pontifical University of the Vatican a cultural festival to celebrate the Iranian culture. Islamic Republic of Iran Cultural Attaché to Rome, Qorban-Ali Purmarjan, gave an address: “Throughout continuous centuries, it has been the strong will of the highly skilled artist Iranian with great tastes that have written the Glorious Qur’an in different beautiful Iranian and Arabic calligraphies, and today at this exhibition some holy verses of the Glorious Qur’an side by side with holy sentences by Prophet Jesus are put on display”.
The President of the Pontifical University of Rome, Professor Nani, said that he “I had been longing to host such a glorious and highly cultural exhibition”.
“What you have in Iran is a strong academic tradition, with both philosophical and mystical aspects — in many ways like Catholicism,” says Father Daniel Madigan, a Jesuit scholar of islam, and a member of the Vatican’s commission for religious relations with Islam.
When the Vatican acts, nations take notice. How should the West and Israel interpret the new Vatican friendship with the Iranian Holocaust deniers and enablers and their terror proxies who branded the dead bodies of Israeli soldiers?
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He is at work on a book about the Vatican and Israel.