Friday, April 08, 2005

Rafsanjani invited Christians to heed "Jesus Christ's valuable teachings"


Tehran, 8 April (AKI) - Leading prayers in the Iranian capital on Friday - the day of John Paul II's funeral in Rome - former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani offered condolences to the world's Christians on the the pontiff's death, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. "The clear distinction in Pope John Paul II's personality is that he was truly a man of peace and seriously opposed to warmonger tendencies," Rafsanjani said. Iran's current president Mohammad Khatami and his fellow Muslim, Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Querei, attended the pontiff's funeral, along with leaders from all the world's main religions. John Paul II died on Saturday, aged 84, after a long illness.

"The Pope condemned the US crimes in (Iraq's) Abu Ghraib prision and was a staunch campaigner against the Communists' atheist policies," added Rafsanjani, who is currently chairman of Iran's powerful Expediency Council. Rafsanjani, 70, who served as president for two terms in 1989-97, intends to run for president in Iran's July presidential elections.

During his sermon, Rafsanjani invited Christians to heed "Jesus Christ's valuable teachings" more carefully, and said: "both the world's Christians and the Vatican had better take lessons from the late Pope's manners and policies, including heeding their sensitive responsibilities more seriously."

"The followers of Jesus cannot remain Christians and at the same time remain silent and indifferent towards the crimes committed by the US and the other superpowers around the globe... Looting other nations' resources, the exertion of hegemony at international communities and launching misleading campaigns against other countries aimed at distorting their image are definitely against the spirit of authentic Christianity," Ransanjani continued.

During his two terms of office as Iran's president, Rafsanjani tried to encourage closer ties with the the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. He opposed harsh Islamic penal codes and promoted better job prospects for women. But since the war in Iraq his stance has hardened and he has used Friday prayers to denounce US "plots" in the region.

"The world's Christians should shout in protest against the United States, and tell the White House leaders that their conduct has defamed Christ," he fulminated on Friday.

Iranian radio commented that the attendance of over 200 dignitaries and world leaders at John Paul II' s funeral was an "unprecedented event." "However, we must not forget that the Catholic Church has been losing members at a rapid rate in Europe and other developed countries," it said.

"The massive turnout at the Pope's funeral clearly reflects the world community's strong opposition to America's war-mongering and its unilateralist approach on the international scene. Without a doubt, this message will not be lost on the American president George W. Bush, who is attending the Pope's funeral.""


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