Pope condemns Iran to death after protests


Pope Francis on Monday broke his silence on the nationwide protests that are rocking Iran, condemning the use of the death penalty there and seemingly legitimizing the protests as protests “demand more respect for the dignity of women.”

Francis made these comments during an annual address to recognized ambassadors to the Vatican, a foreign policy speech the pope gives at the beginning of each year, outlining the areas of areas that the Holy See is most interested in.

In his speech, Francis linked the Vatican’s opposition to abortion with opposition to the death penalty, saying both violate the fundamental right to life. Francis changed church teaching on the death penalty, ruling that it was “unacceptable” under all circumstances.

“The right to life is also threatened in places where the death penalty continues, as is the case these days in Iran, following recent protests demanding greater respect for the dignity of women. women,” said Pope Francis. “The death penalty cannot be used for a purposeful state justice, as it neither prevents nor brings justice to the victims, but only fuels the thirst for revenge.”

His comments marked his first public statement about the protests that broke out in Iran in mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old woman died after being arrested by Iran’s ethics police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. Women have played a leading role in the protests, with many openly removing the mandatory Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

At least four people have been executed since the protests began, following rapid, closed-door trials that drew international criticism.

At least 519 people have been killed in the months-long protests, with more than 19,200 others arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran, a group that has watched the protests since they began. It became one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s Shiite theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Francis has been careful not to criticize the Iranian government, given his efforts to promote dialogue with the Muslim world. Francis has forged a strong relationship with the imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, the place of study for the Sunnis. But his efforts to foster dialogue with the Shiite world have been more cautious, although he did hold a landmark meeting in 2021 with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ayatollah. Ali al-Sistani was born in Iran.

There was no immediate reaction to Francis’ remarks, although Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Monday called for a “severe” response to the ongoing protests. He said those who set fires in public have committed “no doubt” a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic. He also repeated the allegation that foreign powers had incited the unrest without providing evidence to support that claim.

Khamenei’s remarks may encourage authorities to continue harshly punishing detainees.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked about Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ response to the death sentences and executions in Iran, told reporters on Monday: “We do not sufficiently condemn the use of the death penalty.”

“Every time the secretary-general speaks to an Iranian official, he expresses concern about the overall situation regarding the protests that we have witnessed, among others,” Dujarric said.

Pope Francis addressed the protests in Iran in a general lament that women in many parts of the world are seen as “second-class citizens”.

“They suffer violence and abuse, are denied opportunities to study, work, use their talents, and have no access to health care and even food,” he said. . While Francis has appointed women to many high-profile jobs in the Vatican, some women say they are also considered second-class citizens in the Catholic Church because they cannot be ordained as priests.

Pope Francis also mentioned Iran in his speech, lamenting the continued threat posed by nuclear weapons during Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as the breakdown of talks on the program. Iran’s atom. Francis changed church teaching to declare that not only is it immoral to use nuclear weapons, but to possess them.

He said the stagnation in talks on Iran was a point of “particular concern”.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, although it is now enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade than ever before and has drastically limited international scrutiny of its nuclear weapons. the country’s nuclear activity in recent years since the collapse of the nuclear deal with world powers.

In his speech, Francis listed the conflicts, natural disasters and migration crises that are affecting the planet, as well as threats to democracy – especially in the Americas.

Changing his speech at the last minute, he added in “events in recent hours in Brazil”, referring to the thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro who stormed the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and The presidential palace then demolished the nation’s tallest building. power chair.

“In many areas, one sign of the weakening of democracy is the growing political and social polarization, which does not help solve the pressing problems of the people,” he said. “I think of the different countries of the Americas where intense political crises and forms of violence exacerbate social conflicts.”

In addition to Brazil, he cited Peru and Haiti, saying that “there is a need to constantly overcome partisan thinking and work to advance the common good.”


Jon Gambrell contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Edith M. Lederer from the United Nations

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