Pope Francis meets with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on May 17, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.
Vatican City, May 17, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis spoke Monday with Iran’s foreign minister and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid the ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the violence in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
The pope received Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s head diplomat since 2013, for a private audience on May 17 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
Zarif said that he and the pope “exchanged views” on Palestine, interfaith dialogue, and U.S. sanctions in a post on Twitter.
The Iranian government delegation also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed that Pope Francis also spoke on the telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the morning of May 17.
According to a statement from the Turkish president’s office, Erdogan told Pope Francis “that Palestinians would continue to be subjected to massacre as long as the international community did not punish Israel – which is committing humanitarian crimes – with sanctions.”
The Vatican did not comment on the content of the discussions in either the phone call with Erdogan or the meeting with Zarif.
Israel’s Ambassador to Italy responded to the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Rome with an open letter to Zarif accusing Iran of funding and supporting Hamas.
“Why don’t you recognize Israel’s right to exist? Stop spreading hatred,” Ambassador Dror Eydar wrote.
“The question is: when will the West realize that behind the elegant suits, ties and smiles lies a murderous ideology that seeks to erase all of Western civilization? It is necessary to wake up,” the Israeli ambassador said.
Pope Francis appealed for an end to violence in the Israel-Gaza conflict at the end of his Regina Caeli address on May 16.
“In these days, violent armed clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel have taken hold, and risk degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction. Numerous people have been injured, and many innocents have died,” the pope said.
“Among them there are also children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it.”
The pope also lamented intercommunal violence involving Jews and Arabs within Israel.
He said: “Furthermore, the crescendo of hatred and violence that is affecting various cities in Israel is a serious wound to fraternity and peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if there is not an immediate opening to dialogue.”
“I ask myself: where will hatred and revenge lead? Do we really think we will build peace by destroying the other?”
He appealed for calm in the region, urging local leaders and the international community to help secure peace.
“Let us pray unceasingly that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers,” Pope Francis said.