The Hill: Vatican ‘welcomes’ Iran nuclear deal

September 15, 2015
By Julian Hattem
September 15, 2015

The Vatican is highlighting its support for the nuclear deal with Iran, days before Pope Francis’s historic visit to Washington and as opponents in Congress dig in their heels in an attempt to scuttle the accord.

In a statement presented before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday, the Catholic Church’s effective foreign minister offered his strongest support yet behind the agreement.

“In a region where there are already too many conflicts, to reach an agreement on a sensitive issue is an important step that will promote dialogue and cooperation on other issues,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, told the IAEA in Vienna.

“In this respect it is worth stating once again that the way for the solution of conflicts in the Middle East, which must be addressed at global and regional levels, is that of dialogue and negotiation and not that of confrontation,” he added. “It is true that this path requires courageous decisions for the good of all, but it is one that will eventually lead to the desired peace in the region.”

“The Holy See welcomes the IAEA’s participation in the verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Gallagher said, using the formal name for the nuclear pact.

The Vatican had previously said that it sees the Iran deal in “a positive light,” but Gallagher’s new comments shed additional light on the church’s perspective.

They are also likely to preview remarks that Pope Francis will give when he delivers a landmark speech before a joint session of Congress next week.

That could put Republicans — all of whom have opposed the Iran deal — in an awkward position.

The pope has previously been expected to discuss the need to combat climate change and wealth inequality, which could mirror Democratic policy positions.

At the same time, the pope’s visit comes amid an escalating fight over funding for Planned Parenthood, so remarks that oppose abortion rights could upset some Democrats.

Lawmakers have already pledged to avoid displays of partisanship during the pope’s visit on Sept. 24, as part of a three-day visit to Washington during a tour of the East Coast.