After global powers reached an agreement with Iran Tuesday limiting the country’s nuclear activity, the Vatican said the deal was an important step and expressed their hope the fruits would spread to more than just the nuclear field. “The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ said in a July 14 statement, shortly after the announcement of the deal. “It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit.” He said the Holy See hopes these fruits will not be limited to just the nuclear sphere, “but may indeed extend further.” On Tuesday representatives of the United States, Iran and other nations met in Vienna, reaching a long-awaited deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions. Negotiations between Iran and six world powers — the U.S., the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany official began in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani, the seventh and current president of Iran. The formal July 14 announcement of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” comes at the end of more than two weeks of intense discussion, during which negotiators surpassed three self-imposed deadlines, the original having been set for June 30. According to CNN, the U.S. congress is reported to have 60 days to review the plan. After the April 2 agreement on the initial framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the head of the U.S. Bishops' international peace committee, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., offered his support, and called on the U.S. Congress not to “undermine” the deal. His warning came as the Senate was set to debate the bipartisan Corker-Menendez bill, S. 615, which allowed congress to make the review of the final agreement with Iran. The framework set in April reduced the number of Iran's centrifuges by two-thirds, down to just over 6,000. It limited the level of uranium that may be enriched and the amount of low-enriched uranium stockpiled. No new uranium enrichment facilities may be constructed for 15 years. The underground nuclear facility at Fordow must be turned into a research facility, and cannot research uranium enrichment there for 15 years. Nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be lifted if the country abides by the framework, but sanctions related to “terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missiles” will remain. Bishop Cantu warned Congress not to get in the way of the final agreement, the “alternative” to which “leads toward armed conflict.” “(O)ur Committee continues to oppose Congressional efforts that 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, an outcome of profound concern to the Church,” he said. Iran's hostility to its neighbors in the Middle East is all the more reason for the international agreement on its nuclear program, Bishop Cantu insisted. “As we have noted in the past, Iran’s statements and actions have threatened its neighbors, especially Israel, and contributed to instability in the region,” he said. “We hope the agreement is a first step in fostering greater stability and dialogue in the Middle East.” Pope Francis also praised the plan in his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on Easter Sunday, saying that “in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework that had been recently been agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
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