Mohammad Javad Faridzadeh, Iran’s ambassador to the Holy See, is a former philosophy and history professor.
After a period of study in Germany, he returned to Iran in 1997 to serve in the cabinet of his friend, President Mohammed Khatami. Serving as Khatami’s speechwriter, Faridzadeh helped guide the Iranian president’s efforts to promote Iranian democracy and improve Iran’s global ties. Faridzadeh spoke April 24 with Register Correspondent Edward Pentin.
How important is the Vatican to Iran when it comes to mediating international disputes?
Vatican-Iran relations are characteristically important. At the moment, Iran talks of a politics that is intrinsic to its religion. Religion is uniquely defined [in Iran] and therefore the Vatican plays an important role.
How often does Iran request the Vatican to mediate in disputes?
I don’t recall being asked such a specific question, but certainly one can say that the Vatican is an important international body when it comes to peace, and in its role as a peacemaking intermediary — also in working for justice.
In the case of the 15 British sailors captured in Iran in March, did Iran ask the Pope to send a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, or did Britain ask the Pope to get involved?
We received the Pope’s letter with great happiness and we immediately sent it to Iran. We sent it immediately because we are aware of the spiritual importance of the Vatican in the world and over here.
The Vatican doesn’t mediate unless asked to do so by one of the two parties. Did Britain therefore ask the Vatican to send the letter?
It was a letter that was written in secret — it was a secret letter. The Vatican didn’t talk about it and neither did we. The moment when we knew the Vatican and the Pope were working on the letter, we abided by their request to keep the matter secret.
How influential was the letter in getting the sailors released?
When the Pope draws attention to something, certainly it’s important. At the moment he wrote that letter, the matter became important — that’s obvious.
Of course, we were happy to follow the Pope’s wishes exactly and that’s the end of the matter. He asked that the British soldiers be reunited with their families by the evening, for Easter, and that is what happened.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, how important could the Vatican be in easing tensions over this issue between Iran and the West?
The Vatican, as I mentioned before, is very important for Iranians, important for Islam as it is for all Christians. Perhaps it’s because the political language of Iran can be better understood by the Vatican and perhaps, in politics, because a government such as the Vatican can better understand Iran.
There’s also another question: One of the main pillars of the West is Christianity. Christianity is of relevant importance to the West, and can therefore put the West in communication with Iran. This makes the Vatican the best intermediary there is. Christianity and Islam have the same roots.
Are you also in contact with the United States’ ambassador to the Holy See; do you dialogue with him on this issue?
Up until now, as the Iranian ambassador, I haven’t had that kind of communication with the American ambassador, and I must be careful to see what the Iranian foreign minister says.
Certainly, if the Iranian foreign minister was in contact with his American counterpart, and with the American ambassador to the Holy See, without doubt I would contact him.
In early May, Muslim and Catholic scholars will be meeting to discuss their own perceptions of peace at a conference here in Rome. What are your hopes from that meeting?
If Muslims and Christians can come together and dialogue, I hope this event will offer them the opportunity to do so.
Would you like to see President Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Khamenei come and visit the Pope?
I’ll quote a great Islamic philosopher, Avicena, who had thought much about Christianity: “Anything that you believe can happen, can happen.” Following that maxim, one can say that perhaps I see such a specific occasion taking place.
The Pope has talked about the importance of truth and peace going together in international relations — his World Day of Peace Message this year was entitled, “In Truth, Peace.” How truthful is Iran in its international relations?
The question you put is very philosophical and neither three nor 30 minutes would be enough time to reply to it. I hope I can reply in a few seconds.
Man is, practically speaking, sick from lack of truth, but the cure for this lack of truth comes from human beings. The Pope has said that a relationship exists between truth and peace and it’s something no less important for Muslims than for Christians. When there’s a true peace, then a real peace exists — it’s not only about words but truth.
I hope that in other parts of the world the existence of truth and peace can be communicated. But in diplomatic language, unfortunately, that’s not so. Diplomacy masks the truth; diplomatic language says it is the language of truth but in reality it’s not.
In the past, the Vatican and Iran have collaborated well on pro-life issues such as fighting against birth control and pro-abortion elements at the United Nations. Do you foresee similar collaboration in the future?
There have been great changes not only in Iran but also in the way the Vatican is able to communicate with all Christians. Iran, too, is in a position to communicate with millions of Muslims. It’s [therefore] likely we will continue doing this [collaboration] for the same reasons as in the past.
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.