Pope Francis held a historic meeting with Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on March 6 in the holy city of Najaf. In his first papal visit to the country, Pope Franscis is on a four day visit to Iraq. In this historic visit, they gave a message of peaceful coexistence in the war ravaged country.
The 45-minute papal meeting in the holy city of Najaf is being considered one of the most significant summits between a pope and a leading Shia Muslim figure in recent years. This historic meeting was planned for months and each and every detail was discussed painstakingly before the arrival of the Pope in Iraq.
In a video message released on the eve of his visit, Pope Franscis said, “I come among you as a pilgrim of peace, to repeat ‘you are all brothers’.”
“My dear Christian brothers and sisters from Iraq, who have testified to your faith in Jesus amid harsh sufferings: I cannot wait to see you. I am honoured to encounter a Church of martyrs: thank you for your witness!,” said Pope Franscis in a tweet.
The meeting was broadcasted on al-Iraqiya state TV. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani thanked Pope Francis for making an effort to travel to Najaf. He reportedly told him that Christians in Iraq should live “like all Iraqis in security and peace, and with their full constitutional rights,” said a statement released by the Grand Ayatollah’s office.
Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam and he is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq. His opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites around the world.
Al-Sistani in a statement said, “Religious and spiritual leadership must play a big role to put a stop to tragedy … and urge sides, especially great powers, to make wisdom and sense prevail and erase the language of war”.