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Vatican delegation in Iran discuss human rights with Muslim leaders

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- A Vatican delegation traveled to Tehran this week to discuss opportunities for Catholics and Muslims to serve humanity together.

“Muslims and Christians, along with all persons of good will who do not profess any particular religion, are called to promote fundamental human rights for everybody, everywhere, at all times,” participants in the interreligious meeting concluded in a final statement released by the Vatican Nov. 15. 

The interreligious colloquium in Iran focused on shared values found within Shia Islam and Catholicism. The event was organized by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iranian government’s Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.

At the end of the colloquium, participants agreed to a final statement of broad support for fundamental human rights, religious freedom, environmental protection, and service to others.

“Freedom of conscience and of religion is the cornerstone of the edifice of human rights and therefore should be preserved and promoted,” the final statement of the conference declared.

In Iran, Muslim converts to Christianity have suffered persecution and arrest by the Iranian government, according to a 2019 report by the  U.S. Council for International Religious Freedom. At least 171 Christians were arrested in Iran in 2018, the report found.

Among the Iranian participants in the colloquium were Iranian clerics and diplomats: Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Beheshti, Ayatollah Dr. Reza Ramezani, and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoust Abarghouei. 

Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, co-chaired the colloquium along with Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.

Cardinal Ayuso has degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies, in addition to a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Granada. He previously served as dean of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. Pope Francis named made Ayuso a cardinal in Oct. 2019.

The Tehran colloquium was the 11th interreligious dialogue meeting between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization since 1996. The participants decided to hold the next colloquium in Rome in 2021.

“Service to others, especially the sick, the poor and the needy, is of capital importance to Christians and Muslims,” the colloquium’s final statement declares. “Serving others witnesses to the universal love of God for all human beings, because He created everyone and everything, and cares for all His creation with the same love.”

Pope Francis' message to those suffering 'at the foot of the cross'

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 03:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told those who are sick and suffering Friday that the world needs their prayers.

“You, who are at the foot of the cross, perhaps alone, isolated, abandoned, homeless, expelled from your family or from your country, victims of alcohol, prostitution, disease. Be aware that God loves you. God especially listens to your prayer,” Pope Francis said in a video message Nov. 15 to pilgrims in Lourdes, France.

“Brothers and sisters, I need you all, each one of you,” the pope said. “The world suffers and your prayer moves the Lord.”

In the message, Pope Francis greeted those gathered in Lourdes, France Nov. 14-17 for the World Day of the Poor.

Millions of people travel to Lourdes each year to pray at the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 under the title “the Immaculate Conception,” and manifested  healing spring water.

“It is Mary who welcomes us here. She is the Immaculate. She appeared to Bernadette, a poor shepherdess. It is good news for all of us who recognize ourselves as poor and small: ‘What God has hidden from the wise and learned, he has revealed to the little ones,’” Pope Francis said.

“You who are small, you who are poor, fragile, you are the treasure of the Church. You are in the heart of the pope, in the heart of Mary, in the heart of God,” he said.

Pope Francis established the annual World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016.

This year, the pope will celebrate the World Day of the Poor with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 17 followed by a lunch at the Vatican with over 1,000 impoverished people invited as guests.

In his video message, Pope Francis invited each person to “live the sacraments,” adding that they are gifts from the Church.

“I invite you to discover especially confession, the sacrament of forgiveness in which God shows us his tenderness and frees us,” the pope said. He also invited the sick to receive the sacrament of anointing.

Pope Francis said that to receive the Eucharist is to welcome God into one’s body and soul, filling it with faith and joy.

“Do you want to be a Christian? Ask for the baptism,” he added.

“Let us ask the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, to inspire acts of charity, of benevolence towards those around us,” he said. “There is no one so poor as to have nothing to give.”

“Love saves the world and God wants to go through us to save the world,” Pope Francis said.

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St. Albert the Great

St. Albert the Great is a Doctor of the Church and the patron saint of scientists. The native German joined the newly formed Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in the early 13th century. He earned a doctorate from the University of Paris and taught theology there and in Cologne, Germany.  Albert became known as “Great� because of his intellectual abilities; he was a respected philosopher, scientist, theologian and teacher, and was well-versed in Arabic culture. One of his students, who later became a great friend and built upon his Scholastic method, was Thomas Aquinas.  He died Nov. 15, 1280.