Pope Francis, the Pope of the Vatican, held a closed meeting with the Iraqi reference, Ali al-Sistani, in the city of Najaf on the second day of his historic visit to Iraq.
He visited the cradle of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) before he performed his first mass in the country, at St. Joseph Cathedral for the Chaldeans in Baghdad.
Sistani expressed his concern for the security and peace of Iraqi Christians, according to a statement issued by his office after the meeting. He also stressed, during the meeting that began around nine o’clock at his home, and ended after fifty minutes, the need for Christians to enjoy “all of their constitutional rights.”
According to a statement issued by the Vatican, the meeting was “an opportunity for the Pope to thank the Iraqi religious authority for raising his voice in the face of violence and great difficulties in recent years, in defense of the weakest and most persecuted.”
After Najaf, in which the meeting with Sistani was the most prominent of the pontiff’s visit, Pope Francis landed in Ur, the symbolic site from the spiritual point of view, where he denounced in a speech “terrorism that offends religion.”
In his speech, which preceded prayers with representatives of religious sects, the Pope said, “Hostility, extremism and violence do not come from a religious soul: rather, these are all betrayals of religion.” “We, believers, cannot be silent when terrorism offends religion,” he added. But we must remove the misunderstanding ». The visit of Ur, the archaeological site in southern Iraq believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham (upon him be peace), the father of the monotheistic religions, was a dream for the former Pope John Paul II in 2000, but the visit did not materialize at the time.
And the Pope said in Ur: “From this place, where faith was born .. From the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful, and that the greatest disbelief is the profanation of his name by hating our brothers and sisters.” Sitting with Muslim, Christian and Yazidi leaders, he spoke within sight of the archaeological excavation site of the 4,000-year-old city, which includes a pyramid-shaped building known as a ziggurat, a residential complex, temples and palaces. The Pope praised the Muslim youth for helping Christians reform their churches “when terror swept through the north of this beloved country.” On Sunday, the Pope heads to Mosul, the former stronghold of ISIS, as churches and other buildings there are still bearing the scars of the conflict.
Referring to Christians who make up one percent of the population, the Pope stressed Friday, the need to “ensure the participation of all political, social and religious groups, and to secure basic rights for all citizens,” saying, “No one should consider himself a second-class citizen.” He said yesterday, Saturday, “Peace does not have winners and losers, but rather brothers and sisters, who walk from conflict to unity,” adding, “Let us pray and ask for this peace for the whole of the Middle East, and I think in particular of the tormented neighboring Syria.” He also called from Ur to “respect and recognize freedom of conscience and religious freedom everywhere,” adding, “These are fundamental rights, because they make man free to contemplate the sky for which he was created,” in a similar appeal to the one he made during his visit to Morocco about two years ago.
At the end of a busy day, the Pope began reviving his first mass in the country, at St. Joseph Cathedral for the Chaldeans in Baghdad, in the presence of officials and worshipers who sat apart in adherence to the health rules aimed at containing the “Covid-19” epidemic. For the first time, the Supreme Pontiff celebrates a Mass in the Chaldean Eastern Rite, interspersed with prayers and chants in both Arabic and Aramaic.
6th of March
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi announced the designation of the sixth of March of every year as a National Day for Tolerance and Coexistence in Iraq. Al-Kazemi said in a tweet on his personal page on the social networking site “Twitter”: “On the occasion of the historic meeting between the poles of peace and tolerance, His Eminence, the Supreme Leader Ali al-Sistani, His Holiness Pope Francis, and the meeting of religions in the historic city of Ur, we announce the designation of the sixth of March / Every year, March is a national day for tolerance and coexistence in Iraq.
Al-Bayati: The Pope’s visit confirms the failure of terrorist plots
Baghdad: Zidan Al-Rubaie
Ali Al-Bayati, a member of the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq, confirmed, yesterday, Saturday, that the visit of Pope Francis to Iraq is evidence of the failure of all terrorist plots that wanted to discredit Islam.
Al-Bayati said in a tweet to him on his personal page on the social networking site “Twitter”: “The great welcome, hospitality and joy in the hearts of Iraqis – those with the Muslim majority – visiting the“ leader of the Christian religion ”is evidence of the failure of all terrorist schemes who wanted to discredit the religion of Islam, the religion of tolerance. Peace, and a historical turning point represented in the meeting of two prominent spiritual leaders, calling for tolerance, love and the rejection of extremism.