Iranian President Hassan Rouhani postponed his much-anticipated four-day European visit after the attacks in Paris over the weekend. According to a Voice of America report, the Iranian leader described the Islamist terror attacks, which have pushed the death toll to 132 and wounded more than 300 in Paris, as “crimes against humanity.”
Rouhani had planned to visit Italy, the Vatican and France “in a trip aimed at boosting business and diplomatic ties after years of crippling international sanctions because of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.” At Catholic World Report, John Paul Shimak looked at the “unique challenges” facing Pope Francis in advance of his meeting with Rouhani (no announcement on when the trip will be rescheduled). One of those challenges is anti-Semitism. He interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, Acton’s Rome office director:
In an e-mail dated October 30, Kishore Jayabalan of the Istituto Acton told me that the Pope “should tell Rouhani what he recently told a meeting of Jewish leaders, that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic and therefore unacceptable.” However, Jayabalan says he doubts “it would have much effect.”
Jayabalan directs the Istituto Acton here in Rome—the group is connected to the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has worked for both the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
At one point in his career, Jayabalan took part in a meeting between Vatican and Iranian officials. What he saw in that meeting does not make him hopeful about the encounter to take place between the Pope and the Iranian Premier. He says, “The Iranians were not at all interested in any kind of serious dialogue. It’s all a show for them.”
Read “Three challenges for Francis as he meets with Iran’s president” by John Paul Shimak in The Catholic World Report.
Footnote: In a 60 Minutes interview in September, Rouhani assured viewers that the slogan “Death to America” is not meant to be taken literally and merely draws from a long history of political antagonism between the U.S. and Iran. “This slogan that is chanted is not a slogan against the American people,” he said.