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World Pope Francis meets with senior Iraqi Shi'ite cleric

10:01  06 march  2021
10:01  06 march  2021 Source:   news.sky.com

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Pope Francis is holding a symbolic meeting with one of the most powerful figures in Shia Islam on the second day of his landmark trip to Iraq . The Pope 's encounter with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of millions of Shia Muslims, is taking place in the holy city of Najaf. About 10,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel are being deployed to protect the Pope during his visit, while round-the-clock curfews are also being imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus. Some Shia militant groups have reportedly opposed the visit, suggesting the tour amounts to Western interference in the country's

Pope Francis is making the first-ever papal visit to the biblical land of Iraq , arriving he says as a “pilgrim of peace" for all Iraqis , although the country’s beleaguered, dwindling Christian community will take special encouragement and comfort from his presence. The visit is also the first by a Roman To meet with al-Sistani, Francis will travel Saturday to Najaf in southern Iraq , 100 miles south of Baghdad, an important pilgrimage town for Shiite Muslims. The visit comes as part of the pope ’s efforts to forge improved relations with Muslims. It had been hoped al-Sistani would sign onto “A Document

Pope Francis has met and spoken to Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani - southern Iraq's top shi'ite cleric - in a historic meeting of Catholic and Shi'ite Muslim leadership.

Nawaf al-Moussawi, Louis Raphaël I Sako wearing military uniforms: Pope Francis has met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, in Najaf, Iraq. Pic: Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani's office via Reuters © Reuters Pope Francis has met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, in Najaf, Iraq. Pic: Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani's office via Reuters

It's part of the first ever papal visit to the Gulf state this weekend.

The Pope was driven to the home of the Ayatollah in a bullet-proof vehicle, before he climbed out and made the short walk to al-Sistani's small home, which he has rented for decades.

The masked Catholic leader was welcomed by a group of Iraqis wearing traditional clothing, with doves being released as he entered the home in a sign of peace.

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Pope Francis met with Iraqi refugees in Rome early Friday before his flight to Baghdad. The pope spent a few moments with about a dozen refugees from Iraq and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, according to a statement from Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, on March 5. In just over three days, Francis is scheduled to travel 900 miles within Iraq , meeting with political leaders, prominent Muslim clerics , and Christian communities. “I am coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg

Francis will also meet with Shiite leaders, hoping to improve relations and establish a groundwork for peace that protects people of all religions in Iraq . What about the pandemic? Francis will also meet with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who came to power after the previous prime minister resigned in 2019 amid sweeping antigovernment protests. The pope ’s most highly anticipated official meeting in Iraq will be with Ayatollah Sistani. The ayatollah’s messages, delivered through a representative, carry great weight.

Pope Francis and al Sistani will meet behind closed doors and discuss issues surrounding Iraq's Christian minority.

Grand Ayatollah al Sistani is deeply revered by the Shi'ite majority in Iraq, with his thoughts on religious, and other, matters often sought by his followers worldwide.

a group of people that are talking to each other: Pope Francis advocating interfaith dialogue © Reuters Pope Francis advocating interfaith dialogue

"A core purpose of his visit is interfaith dialogue, and that is the theme of today," Sky's Middle East correspondent Mark Stone, who is in Iraq, said.

"He is at the moment meeting Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani - the most senior shi'ite cleric in Iraq and one of the most senior Muslim figures in the world.

"It is a hugely significant moment that these two elderly men, the Pope is 84 the Ayatollah is 90, should meet and should chat and will pray together - a very significant moment and an attempt by the Pope to make the point that... interfaith dialogue is at his core.

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Pope Francis is set for an historic meeting with Iraq 's top Shi ' ite Muslim cleric , Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a trip to Iraq planned for March, the patriarch of Iraq 's Chaldean Catholic Church said on Thursday. The visit, which eluded Francis 's predecessors, takes place amid deteriorating security in Francis said in an interview broadcast on Jan. 10 that his Iraq trip might be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it now appears that preparations are going ahead, including vaccinations for potential participants. In meeting the 90-year-old Sistani, Francis will hold talks with one of the most

Pope Francis is set for an historic meeting with Iraq 's top Shi ' ite Muslim cleric , Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during a trip to Iraq planned for March, the patriarch of Iraq 's Chaldean Catholic Church said on Thursday. The visit, which eluded Francis 's predecessors, takes place amid deteriorating security in Francis said in an interview broadcast on Jan. 10 that his Iraq trip might be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it now appears that preparations are going ahead, including vaccinations for potential participants. In meeting the 90-year-old Sistani, Francis will hold talks with one of the most

"It is incredible that he has managed to get here, everyone thought that the trip would have to be cancelled - not just because of the security concerns but because of coronavirus as well.

"The Vatican is making the point that social distancing is in force, that crowds are not large, but having seen the crowds in one small town yesterday anticipating his arrival, I think that is going to be very very hard to do."

a group of people walking down a busy city street: The Pope was led to the scene in a bulletproof vehicle. Pic: AP © Associated Press The Pope was led to the scene in a bulletproof vehicle. Pic: AP

Following the meeting, al Sistani said that religious authorities have a role in protecting Christians in Iraq, and that they should be able to enjoy the same freedoms as Muslims.

The Vatican said that Pope Francis thanked al Sistani for having "raised his voice in defence of the weakest".

Pope Francis is expected to visit the historic city of Ur later this morning to attend an inter-religious meeting - a site thought to be the birth place of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim patriarch Abraham.

Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq: Beyond the symbolism .
Interfaith dialogue is important, but the fate of Iraqi minorities is hinged on the success of state-building in Iraq.Remarkably, he went to Najaf where he visited Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia community. The meeting was a significant milestone in Iraqi history and the global history of interfaith dialogue. He also visited the ancient city of Ur, Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, and Mosul, where he prayed at the ruins of four churches destroyed by ISIL (ISIS).

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