The nation’s top Catholic bishop on international peace and justice issues has a message for Congress: Get behind the Iran deal.
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., sent letters to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Congressional leaders Monday, describing the framework as “important in advancing a peaceful resolution of the serious questions that have been raised regarding Iran’s nuclear program.”
Cantú, speaking on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote, “Iran’s statements and actions have threatened its neighbors, especially Israel, and contributed to instability in the region,” but slammed members of Congress who “seek to undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve and implement.”
“The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict,” he wrote, “an outcome of profound concern to the Church.”
“Now is the time for dialogue and building bridges which foster peace and greater understanding. We urge Congress to support these efforts,” he concluded.
Cantú’s letters echo similar comments delivered by Pope Francis on Easter Sunday.
In his Urbi et Orbi address, the pope hailed the Iran framework in a section devoted to global peace and conflict.
“In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world,” he said.
In January, Pope Francis signaled support for the negotiation process.
“I express my hope that a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the P5+1 Group regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and my appreciation of the efforts already made in this regard,” he said.
While Congressional Republicans have been openly hostile to the negotiations for months, in recent days some Democrats have publicly expressed skepticism as well. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is considering legislation that would give Congress greater say in lifting US sanctions against Iran.
Both President Barack Obama and Kerry oppose the legislation.
Iran has been negotiating with six nations, including the United States, for several months, seeking to ease international sanctions while gaining support for its nuclear power program. Opponents of the negotiations fear Iran may not live up to an agreement and seek to acquire nuclear weapons.