On Saturday, March 6, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Sistani welcomed Catholic Pope Francis to the Holy City of Najaf. Over the past few years, many Shia scholars have traveled to the Vatican to meet with the Pope. However, this trip will mark the first time that a Pope has ever visited the Highest ranked Shia Scholar at his house in Iraq. Due to the extreme importance of this meeting, the discussion will be private and informal, and every detail of this meeting has been carefully planned from the Pope’s arrival in Najaf to the seating arrangement within Ayatullah Sistani’s home close to the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s). The proximity of this meeting to the Holy Shrine has special significance as the Holy Imam has been known for saying, “Man is either your brother in faith, or your equal in humanity”
The meeting between these two highly reknown and revered leaders is of extreme importance in building unity and tolerance between the adherents of the two main monotheistic faiths. In the past, Ayatullah Sistani has been extremely dedicated to advocating peace, love and coexistence within humanity. Similarly Pope Francis himself has also been dedicated to engaging in dialogue and spreading widespread reform and tolerance among Catholics.
The humility of these two great leaders stands out and can be observed by anyone who has spent time in their presence.
The Vatican and the Hawza in Najaf have partnered on several peace initiatives in the past and have maintained strong relations for some time now. The topics that will be discussed include spreading peace in both communities while dealing with extremism and violence, and giving support to peacemakers dealing with conflict and violence.
The World Federation is profoundly pleased with this initiative and prays that this meeting will be instrumental in promoting interfaith harmony and peace around the world. We wish both of the immense personalities every success in this noble endeavour and reiterate our commitment to promoting camaraderie and unity amongst our communities.