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POPE IN IRAQ: Pope Francis welcomed in first Iraqi historic visit by President Salih and Muslim Clerics (PHOTOS)


Iraqi President Barham Salih welcomes Pope Francis (CNN)

Pope Francis has held a historic meeting with revered Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf, according to al-Iraqiya state TV, on the second day of the pontiff’s visit to the country.

The 45-minute papal meeting with the 90-year old al-Sistani — who rarely appears in public — represented one of the most significant summits between a pope and a leading Shia Muslim figure in recent years.
During the meeting, al-Sistani thanked Francis for making an effort to travel to Najaf and told him that Christians in Iraq should live “like all Iraqis in security and peace, and with their full constitutional rights,” according to a statement released by the Grand Ayatollah’s office.

Pope Francis meets with Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf, Iraq (CNN)

The Pope in turn thanked al-Sistani and the Shia Muslim community for “[raising] his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted, affirming the sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people,” according to a statement from the Holly Sea.

People stand by the road as they wait for Pope Francis, in Baghdad Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. Pope Francis heads to Iraq on Friday to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

 

The Pope also stressed the importance of collaboration and friendship between religious communities.
Pope Francis’s four-day tour of Iraq across six cities is the first papal visit to the country, and Francis’ first trip outside Italy since the coronavirus pandemic began.
After Najaf, the Pope traveled to Nasiriya, where he was going to hold an inter-religious meeting on the plain of Ur, considered the birthplace of Abraham.

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