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Iran seminaries shut to protest Pope's remarks

india Updated: Sep 17, 2006 20:34 IST

Religious seminaries across Iran shut on Sunday to stage protests over remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that linked Islam to violence as top clerics vehemently criticised the pontiff's remarks.

All of Iran's seminary schools were closed in protest at the Pope's "outrageous remarks", state television said, and instead of regular lectures students shook their fists in anger as they listened to clerics denouncing the speech.

Up to 400 seminarians sat in the auditorium of the Feyzieh-the main seminary school in Iran's clerical epicentre of Qom, south of Tehran-to protest against the Pope's remarks in his native Germany.

They carried portraits of revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini and supreme leader Ali Khamenei emblazoned with the slogans "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" written in Arabic.

Iran on Sunday also summoned the Vatican ambassador to Tehran to "strongly protest" Pope's remarks, Iranian state media reported.

"We are concerned and worried about the Pope's comments and only by personally apologising can the misunderstanding be cleared up... We strongly protest at such comments," Foreign Ministry official Ebrahim Rahim-Pour was quoted as saying.

Iran's ambassador to the Vatican, Mohammad Javad Faridzadeh, is currently in Tehran for discussions on the incident.

The Pope on Sunday said he was "deeply sorry" for the outrage triggered across the Muslim world by the remarks he made about Islam, and stressed they had not reflected his personal opinion.

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