Pope Francis met with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Tuesday — the first meeting between a pope and an Iranian leader in 17 years — and urged Iran to play an “important role” in finding political solutions for the various conflicts afflicting the Middle East. The two leaders stressed “the importance of interreligious dialogue” to achieve this aim and the responsibilities of religious communities “in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The private, 40-minute encounter with the pope came midway into Mr. Rouhani’s packed agenda on his four-day visit to Italy and France, where he is trying to re-establish trade and business ties after years of crippling sanctions. The trip follows the deal between Iran and several world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions. CONTINUE