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Bishop in Iran signals hope

09 August 2007

by Bill Bowder

Friendly gesture: Dr Mohammad Khatami, the former President of Iran (right), looks at a book given to him by the new Bishop in Iran, the Rt Revd Azad Marshall, on Tuesday CHRIS SUGDEN/ANGLICAN MAINSTREAM

Friendly gesture: Dr Mohammad Khatami, the former President of Iran (right), looks at a book given to him by the new Bishop in Iran, the Rt Revd Azad ...

CHURCHES in the Middle East and across the Anglican Communion welcomed the installation on Sunday of the Rt Revd Azad Marshall as the new Bishop in Iran (News, 18 May).

The Presiding Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, said that the appointment brought “fresh hope for the Church in Iran”.

On Tuesday, the new Bishop was welcomed by the former President of Iran, Dr Mohammad Khatami, who said that Christianity had a part to play in the development of Iran as a great Islamic civilisation.

Two hundred people had attended the three-hour installation in St Paul’s, Tehran, conducted in English and Farsi. The preacher was the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

Before the service, the visiting bishops had been met by a guard of honour, and government officials had conducted them to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, where they had laid a wreath.

The House of Bishops of the province, which was meeting for the occasion, said it was very encouraged by the “new spirit we have observed in the Church in Iran”. It was pleased with the government’s openness towards the Church, and the “desire of the Muslim religious leaders to start a dialogue with us”.

The bishops also said that they supported Dr Williams in keeping the unity of the Anglican Communion. “We recognise the importance of maintaining our faith and the unity of the Church of Christ, especially in this region where we face many challenges.”

In a message to the new Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury told him that he would oversee a “crucial mission of Christian witness”. Dr Williams confirmed the importance of Bishop Marshall’s work with the Iranian government and religious leaders.

Bishop Marshall, who had been Vicar-General of the diocese since 2004, had “built good relationships with the Muslim religious leaders in Iran”, Bishop Anis said.

Bishop Marshall had also encouraged the clergy to take public worship in church again, and he would now focus on restoring parishes and repairing deserted church buildings.

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