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Three US bishops make their pilgrimage to Qom.

Three US Catholic bishops met quietly with four ayatollahs in March to begin what they see as an ongoing dialogue on nuclear weapons.

The meetings were hosted by the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers of Qom.

The Catholic News Service revealed the meetings last week and said they involved discussions of philosophical and theological commonality between Catholicism and Islam.

The four-day session between three US bishops and four Muslim scholars was organized by two Iranian-American doctoral students of John Steinbruner, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland and a consultant to the Committee on International Peace and Justice of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). One of the two Iranian-Americans was identified as Ebrahim Mohseni.

Committee chairman Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, told Catholic News Service May 13 that the trip was in keeping with the emphasis by Pope Francis on dialogue being "the key to discovering truth and avoiding misunderstanding."

He said Steinbruner had suggested such a dialogue to the committee. Once the bishops agreed, he and the students, along with USCCB staff, spent a year making the arrangements. The State Department and the Vatican were advised of the project, but it remained an independent activity.

Bishop Pates was accompanied by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, who has long expertise in the Middle East, and Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB.

The Islamic clerics who participated were Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei, vice president of the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom; Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli, Ayatollah Sayed Jawad Shahrestani and Ayatollah AliReza Arafi.

Bishop Pates said the Iranian and American clerics began from the common belief of Muslims and Catholics in the existence of one God who created humans and that therefore every person is to be revered. A second point of commonality came from the teaching of both faiths that because of their creation by God, each person has basic rights and human dignity.

The Muslim and Catholic leaders agreed that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral because innocent lives would inevitably be lost, Bishop Pates told the Catholic News Service. From there, discussions considered the morality of a government obtaining nuclear weapons capability in order to defend its people from outside threats.

Bishop Pates said they also touched on the morality of economic sanctions against Iran.

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Title Annotation:Faith: Religion and the world; Roman Catholic bishops Richard E. Pates, Theodore E. McCarrick and Denis J. Madden
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jul 18, 2014
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