Pope Francis Makes Historic Iraq Visit – Meets with Muslim Shia Leader


Pope Francis Makes Historic Iraq Visit – Meets with Muslim Shia Leader

The Pope also sent greeting to Israel’s President Rivlin.

Pope Francis with Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (Vatican Website)

The Pope is making history, again. Pope Francis touched down in Iraq on Friday, the first such visit ever made by a Pope. He also had a few kind words for Israel while he flew over that country.

He told reporters, “I am happy to start trips again and this is a symbolic trip. It’s a duty. It has been a martyred land for too long.” Once in country the Pope met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih.

“All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered. In particular, I would like to mention the Yazidi community, which has mourned the deaths of many men and witnessed thousands of women, girls and children kidnapped, sold as slaves, subjected to physical violence and forced conversions,” he said.

Pope Francis also expressed gratitude to those Muslims who helped repaid all of the damage caused to local churches by ISIS. “I think of the young Muslim volunteers of Mosul, who helped to repair churches and monasteries, building fraternal friendships on the rubble of hatred, and those Christians and Muslims who today are restoring mosques and churches together.”

Pope Francis in Iraq (Vatican Website)

On Saturday the 84 year old Pontiff met personally with Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani n Iraq’s holy city of Najaf. The meeting took place in Sistani’s home.

A statement released by the Vatican said, “The Holy Father stressed the importance of collaboration and friendship between religious communities.”

”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani,” Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi was quoted as saying by the New York Post. “It is an historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

Today the Pope went to Mosul, a city which has been ravaged by twenty years of strife, from the American invasion to war with ISIS. “How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others – forcibly displaced or killed,” Pope Francis said during his visit there.

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war,” he added.

The Pope’s plane flew through Israeli airspace while he was on route to Iraq. While flying above the Holy Land the Pope sent a personal greeting to Israel’s President Reuvin Rivlin. “To His Excellency Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel. Entering Israeli airspace on my Apostolic journey to Iraq, I send warm greetings to you and the people of the nation,” said Pope Francis. “Praying that almighty God will bless you all with His gift of harmony and peace. Franciscus Papa.”

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