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Iran expels Italian nun who served 26 years at leprosarium

Sister Berti's departure will make life difficult for colleague Sister Fabiola Weiss, a 77-year-old Austrian

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: June 14, 2021 08:12 AM GMT

Updated: June 14, 2021 08:39 AM GMT

Iran expels Italian nun who served 26 years at leprosarium

St. Andreyordu Church in Iran was built in the 13th century and is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. (Photo: AFP)

Iran has expelled a 76-year-old Italian nun who worked for 26 years in a leprosy center in the Islamic republic.

The Iran government refused to renew the visa of Sister Giuseppina Berti and asked her to leave the West Asian country, Vatican News reported on June 11.

Sister Berti, a member of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, worked in the leprosarium of Tabriz, the most populous city in northwestern Iran.

She had recently been living in Isfahan in central Iran as a pensioner at her congregation’s house, which was built in 1937.

Sister Berti’s departure will make life difficult for colleague Sister Fabiola Weiss, a 77-year-old Austrian who has spent 38 years in Iran helping the poor and sick in the leprosarium. Sister Weiss’ residence permit has been renewed for another year.

The chapel in the nuns’ house in Isfahan, which was built in 1939, serves as the parish. It is occasionally opened to visitors to celebrate Mass.

Of late, the two sisters were not involved in any outside work to avoid being accused of proselytizing

The congregation of nuns took care of hundreds of Polish children, refugees and war orphans who came to Iran in 1942.

In Isfahan, the Daughters of Charity are engaged in the education and training of young people. The sisters ran a large school that was forced to close after the 1979 revolution.

Of late, the two sisters were not involved in any outside work to avoid being accused of proselytizing.

The Daughters of Charity have three sisters in capital Tehran and the two nuns in Isfahan.
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In 2016, the house of the Lazarist Fathers in Isfahan was confiscated by the government.

Archbishop Dominique Mathieu of Tehran, who was appointed on Jan 8, 2021, is waiting for clearance from the government to arrive in Iran.

Apart from the Belgian Franciscan archbishop, there are no priests in Tehran Archdiocese.

In 2019, the patriarchal administrator of Tehran of the Chaldeans, Ramzi Garmou, was denied a visa and could not return to the country.

The number of Catholics in Iran is pegged at 3,000 with two consecrated laywomen.

The Islamic republic has around 800,000 Christians, forming less than 1 percent of its 83 million people.

Secret churches are raided and their leaders and members are arrested

According to Open Doors, the Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran.

In the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the US-based Christian advocacy group, Iran occupies eighth position for the persecution of Christians.

Secret churches are raided and their leaders and members are arrested under the sweeping law of “crimes against national security,” Open Doors added.

Though the Armenian and Assyrian communities are recognized by the state, they face discrimination and are treated as second-class citizens.

They are banned from speaking about Jesus to others to and are forbidden to speak in Persian, the official language of the country, during their church services, Open Doors said in its 2021 report, released on Jan. 13

Iran’s constitution names Shia Islam as the state religion and imparts minority status to Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian Iranians.

In its 2019 review report, Amnesty International said Christians, including converts, were subjected to harassment and arbitrary detention for practicing their faith.

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