Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the main Shiite religious leaders, stated to the Pope Francisco in a closed-door meeting at his home in Najaf (Iraq) that all Christians, like Iraqis, should live in peace in a meeting considered historic between the Vatican and Islam.
Sistani, 90, told the pontiff, who arrived yesterday at Iraq on the first visit of a Papa to the country, its “concern that Christian citizens should live, like all Iraqis, in security and peace, and have all their constitutional rights,” according to a statement from Al Sistani’s office.
The office released photographs of the meeting between the two religious leaders out of the spotlight in which Francisco, dressed in white, and Al Sistani, in black, are seen on two sofas in the modest house of the Shiite figure in a gesture considered historic. for relations between the Vatican and Islam.
Al Sistani emphasized the role that religious authority has played in “protecting all those who have suffered injustice and harm in recent years, especially during which terrorists seized large areas in various Iraqi provinces, where they committed criminal acts.” it is noted in the statement.
The Shiite leader alluded to the period, between 2014 and 2017, in which the Sunni jihadist group Islamic State (IS) occupied large parts of Iraq and was on the verge of reaching the capital Baghdad.
During this meeting, according to the statement, they addressed “the great challenges that humanity faces at this time and the role of faith” and made specific reference to the “injustices, economic sieges and displacement suffered by many peoples of our country. region, especially the Palestinian people in the occupied territories ”, referring to Israel.
Finally, Al Sistani stressed the “role that great religious and spiritual leaders must play to stop all these tragedies.”
“Let the weapons be silent,” the pope claims during his historic visit to Iraq
This is the first act of the Pope’s day, who this Friday arrived in Iraq for a three-day visit and became the first pontiff to set foot in this country.
Francis traveled to this sacred city, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, the main religious center of this branch of Islam and a pilgrimage destination for Shiites from around the world.
However, during this meeting, there was no common document like the one signed in Abu Dhabi two years ago by the Pope and the Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the largest Sunni institution, in Cairo and that was one of the major steps in the relations between Islam and Catholicism.
The Ayatollah is one of the most powerful figures in Islam and his fetuas (religious edicts) led many Muslims to mobilize in 2014 against the Islamic State, with the creation of the Popular Crowd, and in January 2019 Ali al Sistani asked to investigate the “Heinous crimes” perpetrated by Sunni jihadists against some minorities in Iraqi society, such as the Yazidis in Sinjar, the Christians in Mosul and the Turkmen in Tel Afar.
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