Por The Associated Press
Pope Francis met this Saturday in the holy city of Najaf, in Iraq, with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most important clergymen of Shiite Islam. The meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than expected, according to NBC News, Latest’s sister network.
The purpose of the meeting was convey a message of peaceful coexistence between the two religious confessions. The pontiff calls on Muslims to embrace the country’s long-persecuted Christian minority.
[El papa Francisco aterriza en Bagdad para una histórica visita a Irak]
The historic encounter with al-Sistani was preparing thoroughly, with every detail discussed and negotiated between the Ayatollah’s office and the Vatican.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraqi Christians and that this minority must be able to live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican says that Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent moments in Iraq’s recent history.
Al-Sistani is a deeply respected figure in Iraq, an Islamic country with a Shiite majority. His opinions on religious matters are the object of attention by followers of this religious confession around the world.
[El viaje del papa Francisco a Irak es histórico. Estas son las razones]
On the few occasions when he has made his views known, the influence of al-Sistani has changed the course of modern Iraqi history. In the years after the 2003 US-led invasion, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint when the majority Shiites were attacked by al Qaeda and other extremist Sunni groups. However, the country was engulfed in years of sectarian violence.
In 2014, he issued a religious edict, called a fatwa, that called on healthy men to fight the Islamic State group. This increased the ranks of the Shiite militias. In 2019, when discontent with the government gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
[El papa Francisco permite que las mujeres tengan más roles en misa, pero no les abre el sacerdocio]
Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday and met with senior Iraqi government officials on the first papal visit to the country. As well It is his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic..
Iraqis have welcomed the visit and the international attention that the visit has brought to the country, as they struggle to recover from decades of conflict. Iraq declared victory against the Islamic State group in 2017, but sporadic attacks are still being recorded on its territory.
[El papa Francisco celebra la misa del Miércoles de Cenizas sin mascarilla]