A top Iranian religious leader has praised Pope Francis for saying it is wrong to identify Islam with violence.
Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi of Qom wrote in a letter to the Pope: "I am really delighted to have heard your comments during your last trip to Poland in which you stated 'Islam is not equal to terrorism' and further dismissed the association of violence and harshness with any and all divinely-sent religions.
"Your wise and logical stance regarding Islam in disassociating the religion from the inhumane actions and atrocities of the Takfiri groups such as Daesh is truly admirable."
Pope Francis told reporters on his plane back from Poland last month: "I think it is not right to identity Islam with violence. This is not right and this is not true."
He was speaking following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old Catholic priest in Rouen, France, in an attack that was claimed by Islamic State.
"I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group," the Pope said. "I don't like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptised Catholics.
"If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent."
In his letter, Shirazi said that "such barbaric acts have nothing to do with divinely-sent religions and their various schools of thought. Rather, they originate from the inferior materialistic objectives of some corrupt superpowers who seek nothing but to obtain more illegitimate wealth."
He condemned the death of Father Hamel, and said it was the duty of religious leaders to take "clear and strong positions... against the inhumane violations, especially those carried out under the name of religion in any part of the world".
He ended with a note that he would "pray to God almighty" for the Pope's "success in spreading kindness, peace and spirituality in the world".