Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani spoke privately for 45 minutes.
Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shiite authority, jointly spoke of the importance of cultivating dialogue and mutual respect for the “good of Iraq” after a historic meeting March 6 on the pope’s first full day in Iraq.
Pope Francis arrived at 9 a.m. local time in Najaf, the spiritual city of the Shiites of Iraq, accompanied by a large convoy. Welcomed by the son of al-Sistani, the pontiff entered his residence as doves were released. The private interview lasted 45 minutes instead of the planned 30 minutes.
In a statement, the Holy See announced that the two men had stressed “the importance of collaboration and friendship” between their religions so that, by cultivating mutual respect and dialogue, “they contribute to the good of Iraq,” of the region and of all humanity.
This meeting was an opportunity for the Pope to thank the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani because with the Shiite community – in the face of the violence and the great difficulties of recent years – he “raised his voice to defend the weakest and the most persecuted, affirming the sanctity of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people.”
After the meeting, the Holy Father left for Ur, the birthplace of Abraham.