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from issue no. 12 - 2010

The Catholic Church in Iran

by Giovanni Cubeddu

The Islamic Republic of Iran currently numbers 77 million inhabitants, with an average age of 26. The Christian presence, which amounted to 300,000 faithful, has long been in decline due to emigration to the United States, Canada and Europe.
The vast majority of Christians belong to the Armenian Gregorian Apostolic Church. Then there is the Assyrian Church of the East, and various small Protestant denominations (including local churches for Muslim converts, officially illegal).
The Catholic Church – which is divided among the Chaldean, Armenian Catholic and Latin rites – is a small flock that according to official sources of the local Catholic Bishops' Conference does not exceed eight thousand souls. This Conference consists of four bishops, two are of Chaldean rite, in the diocese of Tehran and Urmia, respectively Metropolitan Archbishop Ramzi Garmou (also president of the Bishops' Conference since 2007) and Bishop Thomas Meram; Neshan Karakeheyan is patriarchal administrator of the Armenian-Catholic diocese of Isfahan, with residence in Tehran (about three hundred faithful), while Ignazio Bedini, SDB, is archbishop of the Latin diocese of Isfahan, with residence in Tehran (about two thousand faithful).
The Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews, in accordance with Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, have the freedom to practice their faith freely, within the framework of the Islamic laws.

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