From Associated Press - After months of negotiating and planning, Pope Francis and Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, met on Saturday in Najaf, Iraq, in al-Sistani's home to deliver a message of coexistence among the world's two largest religious groups. The two leaders urged Iraqi Muslims to embrace the nation's Christian minority.
Al-Sistani emphasized that religious leaders have a role in protecting Iraq's Christians, noting that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis.
Francis later visited Ur, Iraq, which was the birthplace of Abraham, a significant figure for both religions. During the visit to Ur, Francis stated, "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 blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters."
Francis's trip delivered many historic firsts: the first time any pope has ever visited Iraq, Francis's first trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Francis's first time meeting a grand ayatollah.
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