BAGHDAD, KOMPAS.com – Ayatollah Agung Ali al-Sistani told to Pope Francis in a historic meeting in the city of Najaf Iraq on Saturday (6/3/2021) that he supported the people Kristen in his country living in ” peace“.
The meeting took place on the second day of the Pope’s scheduled visit to Iraq for the first time, marking an important moment in the history of modern religion.
Despite a second wave of corona viruses and security threats, it did not frighten the Pope to visit Iraq, a place he had “long awaited”.
Its aim is to entertain the country’s ancient Christian community and deepen its dialogue with other religious figures AFP on Saturday (6/3/2021).
The meeting between the two influential religious figures lasted 50 minutes at al-Sistani’s office. Shortly after the meeting, al-Sistani’s office issued thanks to the 84-year-old Pope for his visit to the holy city of Najaf.
Al-Sistani, 90, “stressed his concern for Christians who must be able to live like all Iraqis in peace and security and with their full constitutional rights.”
In addition, his party published a photo of the two of them who were not wearing masks.
Al-Sistani wore a turban and a black robe, while the Pope wore a white shirt.
Scholars Shiites these are usually very secretive and rarely receive meetings, but welcome the visit of the Pope, who openly supports interreligious dialogue.
The pope had previously landed at Najaf airport, where posters have been installed displaying the famous saying of Ali, the fourth caliph and a relative of the Prophet Muhammad, who is buried in the holy city.
“People are of two kinds, either brothers in faith or equal in humanity,” read the inscription on the banner.
The meeting was one of the highlights of the Pope’s 4-day trip to Iraq, where al-Sistani has played a role in de-escalating tensions in recent decades.
It took months of meticulous negotiations between Najaf and the Vatican to secure a one-on-one meeting.
“We feel proud of what this visit represents and we thank those who made this possible,” said Mohammed Ali Bahr al-Ulum, a senior cleric in Najaf.
Pope Francis, a strong supporter of interfaith dialogue, has met with Sunni clerics in several major countries Muslim, including Bangladesh, Maaroko, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Meanwhile, al-Sistani is a cleric followed by most of the world’s 200 million Shia Muslims, and is a national figure for Iraqis.
Shia Muslims are a minority among Muslims, but the majority in Iraq.
“Ali al-Sistani is a religious leader with high moral authority,” said Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a specialist in Islamic studies.
Sistani began his religious studies at the age of 5, rising from the ranks of Shia clerics to the great ayatollahs in the 1990s.
When Saddam Hussein came to power, he spent years under house arrest.
However, he made a comeback after a US-led invasion toppled a repressive regime in 2003, to play an unprecedented public role.
In 2019, he stood alongside Iraqi protesters demanding better public services and resisting external interference in Iraqi internal affairs.
On Friday (5/3/2021), in Baghdad, Pope Francis made a similar request.
“Hopefully the partisan interests stop, interests outside that do not take the local population into account,” said the Pope.
After meeting with prominent Shia clerics, the Pope continued his journey to a desert site in the ancient city of Ur, which is believed to be the birthplace of Prophet Abraham, who is believed to be Christian, Jewish and Muslim.