Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
Area: 1,648,195 sq. km.
Neighbouring countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to the North, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the East, and Iraq and Turkey to the West. Iran has access to the Caspian Sea in the North, to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf in the South
Capital City: Tehran
Languages: Farsi (Persian)
Member of: OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference), UN and OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)
(De Agostini, Jan. 2008)
Heir to the tradition of the Persian Empire, Iran has always maintained its specificity in the Islamic world, thanks to the Indo-European origin of its main ethnic group (Persians) and to the adherence to Shia Islam.
Today Iran is an Islamic Republic. The Constitution of 2nd December 1979 puts the State under the authority of the Shia clergy. At the top is in fact the Rahbar, the Supreme Leader chosen with a life mandate by the Assembly of the experts (86 theologians elected by the people for an 8-year term); the Supreme Leader presides over the Council of Guardians of the Constitution and of the Sharia (12 members named by him). This Council controls all the laws and the State departments, including the President of the Republic. The legislative body is the Islamic Assembly and the juridical system is based on the Islamic laws.
(Main Source: De Agostini, Jan. 2009)
Shia Islam identifies itself with the State structure; art. 4 of the Constitution states that “All laws, whether civil, penal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political and of other nature, and all norms shall be based on Islamic precepts”.
The population is about 74 million (UN Statistics 2008). There are fewer than 0.3% Christians, and fewer than 0.03% Catholics. (Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2008 and Dossier of the French Episcopal Conference on the Synod for the Middle East)
Relations with the Holy See
Iran has diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The Apostolic Nuncio is Mgr. Jean-Paul Aimé Gobel, tit. archbishop of Galazia (10th Oct. 2007).
BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS OF IRAN: Today, as in the past, the Catholic Church does not cease to encourage all who have at heart the common good and peace among nations. Nor will Iran, the bridge between the Middle East and sub-continental Asia, for its part, fail to fulfil this vocation...
BENEDICT XVI TO THE AMBASSADOR OF IRAN, ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF HIS CREDENTIALS: Faith in the one God must bring all believers closer, impelling them to work together for the defense and promotion of fundamental human values. …