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Pope Francis meets Iraq′s top Shiite cleric al-Sistani | News | DW

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Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Iraqi Christians to be protected after welcoming Pope Francis at his dwelling within the holy metropolis of Najaf on Saturday.

Iraqi Christians ought to “dwell like all Iraqis, in safety and peace and with full constitutional rights,” Al-Sistani stated in an announcement. He additionally stated that non secular authorities performed a task in defending the group, in addition to “others who’ve additionally suffered injustice and hurt.”

Whereas there have been as soon as over 1,000,000 Christians residing in Iraq, their population shrank following the 2003 US invasion and the years of religiously fueled violence and financial decline. The Christian inhabitants is at the moment estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000.

Ali al-Sistani (left) sits down with Pope Francis (right)

The 2 non secular leaders spoke for about 40 minutes

Throughout Saturday’s assembly, Pope Francis thanked the cleric for having “raised his voice in protection of the weakest and most persecuted,” in accordance with a Vatican assertion.

Al-Sistani additionally drew consideration to the struggling of “the Palestinian folks within the occupied lands,” saying they had been among the many teams dealing with violence, financial blockades and compelled displacement.

Who’s Al-Sistani?

The Shiite cleric is Iraq’s top religious leader whose affect additionally reaches past Iraq’s borders.

Al-Sistani has largely stayed out of the day-to-day politics and intervened solely at vital junctures within the nation’s historical past. He has preached restraint amid the non secular violence fanned by the US ousting of Saddam Hussein and in 2014 known as for Shiites to struggle in opposition to the “Islamic State” Sunni militia. His help for anti-government protests in 2019 led to the change of presidency.

What occurred in Najaf?

The most recent assembly is the primary time in historical past {that a} Catholic pope has met a Shiite Grand Ayatollah.

The 84-year-old pope and the 90-year-old Shiite cleric talked for about 40 minutes in al-Sistani’s rented dwelling close to the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf.

The assembly was held underneath heavy safety measures with a bullet-proof car main the papal convoy led by means of the town, though youngsters had been additionally seen waving Vatican and Iraqi flags alongside the route.

The pope was welcomed by a bunch of Iraqis in conventional clothes, with a number of doves being launched as an emblem of peace.

A map of Iraq with the pope's itinerary

Pope is ready to additionally go to Irbil throughout his go to

After the closed-door assembly, the pope left for the traditional metropolis of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, who’s revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

How do Iraqis see the pope’s go to?

Talking to DW from Iraq, reporter Owen Holdaway stated that Iraq’s Muslims had been responding to the papal go to with affection.

“He is called ‘Baba’ [an honorific term for an elderly person] amongst non-Christians,” Holdaway stated.

“Iraq is often regarded as a really sectarian nation, with numerous battle and issues like that, however this sort of exhibits a little bit of unity throughout the totally different faiths,” the reporter stated.

He additionally stated the Christian neighborhood was “extraordinarily proud” that the pope selected Iraq for his first international journey because the outbreak of the pandemic.

What’s Pope Francis hoping to realize in Iraq?

The Catholic pontiff is currently on a four-day visit to Iraq which he described as a “pilgrimage.”

Pope Francis had stated he was bringing a message of peaceable coexistence and has urged Iraqi Muslims to embrace the nation’s Christian minority. Iraq has been beleaguered by non secular divides between the bulk Shiites, the smaller inhabitants of Sunnis, and different non secular teams.

After reaching Ur on Saturday, he known as on non secular leaders to place apart confessional variations and work collectively.

“From this place, the place religion was born, from the land of our father Abraham, allow us to affirm that God is merciful and that the best blasphemy is to profane his identify by hating our brothers and sisters,” the pope stated.

“Hostility, extremism and violence are usually not born of a spiritual coronary heart: they’re betrayals of faith.”

dj/mm (Reuters, AP, dpa)





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