VATICAN CITY (AP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to the pope thanking him for opposing a Florida pastor’s threat to burn the Quran and calling for cooperation against secularism, the Vatican and the Iranian presidency said Saturday.
The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had received the letter during a brief meeting with one of Iran’s vice presidents at the end of his weekly general audience Wednesday.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi did not release the contents of the message.
But the website of the Iranian presidency quoted Ahmadinejad as thanking the pope “for your condemnation of an unwise move by a Florida church.” The pope and several other Christian leaders were among those urging the pastor to reconsider his plan to burn the Quran on the 9/11 anniversary. The plan was eventually called off.
The website also quoted the letter as denouncing “secularism, Western extremist humanism and the man’s growing tendency toward material life” and blaming them for the “decline of human society.”
“Close cooperation and interaction among divine religions to halt such destructive moves is an absolute necessity,” the letter said, according to the website.
The Vatican did not say whether the pope planned to reply to the letter.
It is not the first missive between Iran’s hardline president and the pontiff.
In 2006, Benedict received a letter from Ahmadinejad that focused on a round of sanctions that had at that point just been imposed by the U.N. Security Council for Iran’s refusal to compromise on its nuclear program.