The papal meeting with the 90-year-old Sistani, who rarely appears in public, was one of the most significant summits between a Pope and a leading Shiite Muslim figure in recent years.

Pope Francis ‘four-day trip to Iraq through six cities marks the first papal visit to the country and Francis’ first trip outside Italy since the coronavirus pandemic began. After Najaf, he is expected to leave for Nasiriya, where he will hold an interfaith meeting in the plain of Ur, which is believed to be the birthplace of Abraham.

The Pope landed in Baghdad on Friday, where he was met by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Francis later met with clergymen and other officials at a church in Baghdad where a bloody massacre took place in 2010.

Iraq imposed a curfew throughout the four-day papal visit to minimize health and safety risks. Francis is due to leave Iraq on March 8th.

Francis has met with leading Sunni cleric Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb several times in the past and signed a 2019 document pledging “human brotherhood” between world religions.


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