Iran’s leader asks Pope to pray for him after ‘cordial talks’

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asked Pope Francis to “pray for me” as the two met at the Vatican on Jan. 26.

The talks “delved into the conclusion and application of the nuclear accord, and the important role that Iran is called upon to play, together with other countries of the region,” the Holy See said in a statement after the meeting.

Pope Francis (r.) smiles with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani at the end of their private audience on Jan. 26 at the Vatican. /AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis smiles with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after their private meeting on Jan. 26 at the Vatican. /AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s role should be to “foster adequate political solutions to the issues plaguing the Middle East, fighting the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking,” the Holy See statement said.

In the first meeting between a pontiff and Iranian president since 1999, Francis presented Rouhani a medal depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to a poor man in the cold, describing the saint’s act as “a sign of unsolicited brotherhood.”

Rouhani reciprocated with a gift of a hand-made rug that he said was made in the Iranian holy city of Qom.

The 40-minute “cordial talks” also stressed common spiritual values, the Holy See statement said.

Prior to visiting the Vatican, Rouhani told a forum of business leaders in Rome that “Iran is the safest and most stable country of the entire region.”

Italy hopes Iran can play a role in ending Syria’s civil war, although Teheran’s main role thus far has been to deploy its terror proxy Hizbullah to the battlefield. Rome fears the ongoing warfare will further destabilize Libya, which lies just across the Mediterranean from southern Italy.

“Italy has always backed the role of Iran as a regional player in resolving tensions in the area, starting with the Syrian crisis,” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

Rouhani’s four-day European trip concluded in France on Jan. 27.