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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Asks Pope Francis to Pray for Him at Vatican Meeting

Iran President Hassan Rouhani
Iran President Hassan Rouhani (L) exchanges gifts with Pope Francis at the Vatican, January 26, 2016. |

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Tuesday, and asked the pontiff for prayers as the Middle Eastern country attempts to improve its relationship with the international community.

Rouhani had a private meeting with the pope during his four-day trip in Europe, which analysts say is meant to restore ties to western powers after economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic were lifted. 

During his visit, Rouhani reportedly asked the pope to pray for him, adding that visiting the Catholic holy site was a "real pleasure." 

As CNN reports, the 40-minute talk between the pope and Rouhani likely centered on humanitarian unrest in the Middle East.

"The parties highlighted the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace," the Vatican said in a statement following the meeting.

The Vatican added in its statement that "during the cordial discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom."

The Holy See's statement added that the pope and the Iranian leader also discussed the global significance of Iran reducing its nuclear program.

"Attention then turned to the conclusion and application of the Nuclear Accord and the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfill, along with other countries in the region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace," the Vatican said.

Iran's meeting comes after the United Nations and the European Union determined that economic sanctions imposed on the nation could be lifted after it complied with regulations for its nuclear program.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told CNN that he believes the Iranian leader's recent visit to Rome is indicative of Iran's attempt to restore relationships with global powers.

"I think that the meeting of President Rouhani with the pope is one of the signals of the fact that, after the nuclear deal, we have a possibility of a relevant involvement of Iran in a regional and global framework," Gentiloni said.

Following the recent nuclear deal, Rouhani said in a statement that the agreement was a "golden page" in the nation's history.

"The nuclear deal is an opportunity that we should use to develop the country, improve the welfare of the nation, and create stability and security in the region," Rouhani told parliament following the deal.

As NBC News reports, a remaining skeptic of the nuclear deal is Israel, which has argued that while Iran promises to reduce its nuclear production program, it will go against the deal and ultimately use its nuclear weapons for terroristic purposes.

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