Iran’s Vatican embassy angry at claim Catholic archbishop and nun denied visas

Iran’s Vatican embassy angry at claim Catholic archbishop and nun denied visas

Fr Dominique Mathieu ( and Sister Giuseppina Berti (EsfahanEmrooz/Reza Amini/Getty)

The Iranian embassy to the Holy See has reacted angrily to an article on a Catholic website highlighting the challenges faced by Christians in Iran. 

In the article, published by AsiaNews on 16 February, Chaldean bishop Thomas Meram of Orumiyeh explained the “many difficulties” faced by the Catholic community in Iran, while it was also noted how the new Catholic archbishop, Fr Dominique Mathieu, had not been able to enter Iran despite his appointment by the Pope early last year, and how a long-serving Italian nun, 75-year-old Sister Giuseppina Berti, was also denied a renewal of her visa.

In a strongly-worded statement, published in full by AsiaNews on 18 February, the Iranian embassy demanded a rebuttal of the “completely false and unfounded” article, claiming the archbishop had entered Iran on 12 November 2021 and “now devotes himself to his activities”, and that Sister Berti’s residence permit “was renewed and she continues to live in the house of her congregation without any difficulty”.

The embassy added that the claims made in the AsiaNews article “harm the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran”; that Christians “continue to enjoy the religious freedom to carry out their activities, worship in their churches and devote themselves to their programmes in accordance with the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran”; and that Christians “also have their own representatives in the Islamic parliament”.

AsiaNews, while publishing the rebuttal as requested, commented: “We are happy that Mgr Mathieu and Sister Berti are in Iran and able to carry out their ministry.

“We are, however, surprised by the tone of the reaction to an article that – in its essential part and in its title – simply gave an account of the life of the Chaldean Catholic community in Iran, describing its activities and mentioning concerns that its small size makes evident to all. 

“We dare to think that the fate of the good bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Holy See has very little to do with an error in a paragraph of an article in AsiaNews.”