It is a historic meeting which took place on Saturday March 6 in Nadjaf, the great Shiite holy city in southern Iraq. Pope Francis spoke with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, the country’s highest Shiite authority. A first.
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“During the meeting, the discussion revolved around the great challenges facing humanity, the role of faith in Almighty God, his messages, and high moral values to overcome them”, said a statement from the Nadjaf marjaiyya – the religious institution surrounding Ali Al Sistani – at the end of the meeting.
The right of Iraqi Christians to security and peace
The great Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, immense authority for the Iraqi Shiites and considered by many of them as a “Source of imitation”, evoked the themes of “Injustice, oppression, poverty, religious and intellectual persecution, the suppression of fundamental freedoms and the absence of social justice, in particular wars, acts of violence, economic blockades”. He specifically mentioned the case of the Palestinian people in the territories occupied by Israel.
He also pointed out “The role that great religious and spiritual leaders should play in stemming these tragedies, by urging the parties concerned – especially in the great powers – to prioritize reason and wisdom and to reject the language of war”, the statement continues.
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To Pope Francis, he reaffirmed his “Interest in his fellow Christians”, reminding, “As for all Iraqis”, their “Right to security and peace and with full respect for their constitutional rights”. He also underlined the role played by religious authorities in the face of Daesh “To protect them and all the others who have also suffered injustices and violence”.
Building the good of Iraq through dialogue
For his part, “The Holy Father underlined the importance of collaboration and friendship between religious communities so that, cultivating reciprocity and dialogue, we can build the good of Iraq, of the region and of humanity. whole “, the Vatican said in a statement.
“The meeting was an opportunity for the Pope to thank the Grand Ayatollah for having defended the weakest and the persecuted, with the Shiite community, in the face of the violence and the great difficulties of recent years, and for having affirmed the sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people ”.
→ ANALYSIS. Between Pope Francis and Ayatollah Sistani, a symbolic meeting for Christians and Shiites
Sign of the importance of this interview: the two men, who had planned to see each other for 30 minutes, finally spent 50 minutes meeting them. If this meeting, officially qualified as ” courtesy visit “ by the organizers of the visit, took place behind closed doors, it is nonetheless of major symbolic importance, in this country where the Ayatollah, aged 90, is one of the most influential men.
Two men seated, facing each other
Welcomed at the entrance to the residence by Ali Al Sistani’s son, Mohamed Rida, the Pope was then accompanied inside for an interview, according to a statement released by the Vatican. According to information from The cross, Iraqi politicians who also wanted to attend the meeting were refused entry by the entourage of the grand imam. Only those accompanying the Pope – including Cardinal Louis Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans – were able to enter.
In the photos of this meeting broadcast by the official Vatican media, we see the two men sitting opposite each other, without masks.
→ PORTRAIT. The Pope meets Ayatollah Sistani, Iraqi conscience
All over the city of Nadjaf, considered holy by the Shiites, portraits of the Pope and Ayatollah have been placed for several days. In Baghdad, a few large panels with a poster of the two men were also visible.
What will follow this meeting? For the moment, it is difficult to answer this question precisely. Before the meeting, several Shiism experts told La Croix that it could be a first step before the establishment of a common text.