Pope Francis Mourns Death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Pope Francis and Ebrahim Raisi
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis, Meghdad Madadi ATPImages/Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis sent a telegram to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei expressing his condolences for the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Known as the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role in the mass execution of dissidents after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Raisi died Sunday in a chopper crash in northwest Iran.

The state-run Mehr news agency reported that Raisi had “an accident while serving and performing his duty for the people of Iran and was martyred.”

Rescuers recover bodies at the crash site of a helicopter transporting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in a fog-covered mountainous area of Varzaghan in northwestern Iran on May 20, 2024. (AZIN HAGHIGHI/MOJ News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

“I send condolences upon the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and all who perished in yesterday’s helicopter crash,” Pope Francis said in his telegram, dated May 20, 2024.

“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty and with prayers for those who mourn their loss, especially their families, I send the assurance of spiritual closeness to the nation at this difficult time,” he wrote.

The U.S. State Department issued a similar statement in which department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the U.S. “expresses its official condolences” for the death of Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials who had been on board the helicopter that crashed on Sunday.

In November 2023, Raisi telephoned Pope Francis to thank him for his repeated calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

According to the website of the Iranian presidency, in his conversation with the pope, Raisi “called the terrible and unprecedented crimes of the usurper Zionist regime in martyring nearly 10,000 people, including 4,000 children and 2,500 women, the biggest genocide of the century.”

Raisi reportedly told the pope that “supporting the oppressed people of Palestine today is the practice of the teachings of all Abrahamic religions, including Christians.”

The website cited Francis as saying, “As the leader of the world’s Catholics, I will do everything in my power to stop these attacks and prevent more women and children from becoming victims in Gaza.”

Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni confirmed the conversation, noting it happened at the request of the Iranian president.

“The Iranian presidency’s website reported that President Raisi expressed his appreciation for the Pope’s appeals for a ceasefire in Gaza,” Vatican News stated.


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