Joint declaration affirms 'common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect'

A joint declaration by American Catholic bishops and Iranian Shia Muslim leaders has condemned the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction.

The declaration was issued on June 14 in Washington and came out of a visit by a delegation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Iran in March.

The declaration read: “Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.”

“Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”

The declaration also condemned religious intolerance and affirmed the signatories’ commitment to continued dialogue.

The declaration read: “As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family.”

Entitled “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”, the declaration was signed by Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, who is also chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee. It was also signed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington.

The Muslim signatories were Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars, and Dr Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of international affairs office at the Society.

Fr Timothy Wright OSB, former abbot of Ampleforth Abbey and a leading proponent of Catholic-Shiite dialogue, hoped that the statement would lead to further cooperation between the two faiths.

He said: “I am delighted that these representatives of the U.S. Bishops and senior clerics in Qom have been able to issue a joint statement of this nature.”

“It is no secret that Iran and the Vatican hold similar views on the need to protect human life from conception to natural death. Perhaps this Joint Declaration might be the first of a series on other moral issues where both Catholics and Shia hold similar views.”

He also agreed with the declaration’s conclusions regarding nuclear and chemical weapons.

He said: “The statement affirms what has long been doubted by many Western politicians, that the possession and threat to use nuclear weapons is inherently immoral because of the inevitable scale of death, injury and destruction that such bombs will entail for innocent people. Further, it should be remembered that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in his war against Iran, killing and maiming many thousands of Iranians: there was no condemnation from either the USA or Europe.”