Pope Francis meets Shiite cleric Sistani in Iraq
During his first visit to Iraq, Francis Pope met Shiite cleric al-Sistani in the city of Najaf.
Pope Francis has met with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most senior leaders in Shia Islam, in his home in the city of Najaf to deliver a message of peaceful coexistence, urging Muslims to embrace Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority.
After the meeting, al-Sistani office released a statement that said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians and that the Shia leader “affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights”.
The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani and the Shia people for having “raised his voice in defence of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history.
He said al-Sistani’s message of peace affirmed “the sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people”.
The closed-door meeting was to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shia-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shia Muslims worldwide.