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  • It's day two of Pope Francis's historic visit to Iraq.

  • He's aiming to rally the country's minority Christian community, whose numbers have dropped significantly after years of war and persecution.

  • The pope began the day in the holy city of Najaf, where he had a private meeting with one of Iraq's most powerful figures in Shia Islam, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a meeting that was months in the making, every detail carefully planned.

  • After a photo op, the two men spoke privately for 40 minutes, the Ayatollah reportedly telling the pope he also believes Christians should be able to live in peace in Iraq and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis.

  • It's a powerful statement from Sistani, who rarely makes his opinions known when he does Shiites in Iraq and around the world.

  • Take note, I suppose.

  • Later, the pope arrived in the ancient city of or known as the birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews, a fitting place for an interfaith meeting where Francis underscored his message.

  • Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity completely around.

  • In praying for peace in the Middle East, the pope singled out Syria ravaged by a decade of civil war, and he condemned religious extremists who use terrorism to achieve their aims.

  • On Sunday, Pope Francis will see first hand the destruction left behind by the terrorist Islamic state when he visits the group's former stronghold in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

  • The Pilgrim of Peace, as Pope Francis called himself, is aware of the risks he's taking amid an ongoing pandemic and a regional conflict.

  • This is an emblematic trip, and it is my duty to a martyred land very soon after, remarked or IATA.

  • But he is not traveling alone.

  • He's protected by one of the largest security deployments in recent Iraqi history 10,000 personnel by some estimates, including special forces, 24 hour drone surveillance and undercover intelligence officers.

  • It's the first visit by a pope to Iraq and comes just two days after a rocket attack that seemed to put the trip in doubt.

  • His first remarks in Baghdad acknowledged the difficult days most Iraqis have had to endure without a military escort over the past several decades.

  • Iraq has suffered the disastrous effects of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts, often grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups.

  • The name of God cannot be used to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and depression.

  • For over two decades now, sectarian conflict has driven most of Iraq's Christians out of the country.

  • In 2014, the so called Islamic state began targeting Christians, driving hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

  • The pope's visit is a symbol of victory over this tide of violence.

  • This cathedral in Baghdad was the site of a 2010 terrorist attack.

  • The pope's visit there drew strong reactions from the community.

  • We feel indescribable joy, not only me, but everyone.

  • Seeing Pope Francis and Iraq is a historic event.

  • I'm joined now by journalist Owen.

  • Hold away, who's in Iraq following the pope's visit?

  • Oh, and the pope has met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani.

  • Why is that meeting so significant?

  • I think because of the weights is standing actually has within Iraqis, essentially the head of the largest community community, the sheer community of Iraq.

  • I think the fact that they're being a dialogue between the two of them is extremely important.

  • Also, the lead also sustain yourself, is very reclusive and rarely give political or public statements.

  • So I think the fact that they both also reiterated the need for, you know, being 11 united Iraq and all Iraqis, regardless of faith, are should live together in peace.

  • I think that really emphasizes and really has a lot of weight within the country and also within the right wide of Middle East.

  • What about non Christians?

  • So how are they reacting to the pope's visit?

  • I mean, very much so.

  • I mean, I think they're very, very happy that the fact that they're showcasing a different side of Iraq um, Iraq tends to be thought of, you know, as a very sectarian country with a lot of conflict between the different ethnic groups, you know, be that Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Yazidi.

  • What?

  • Whomever.

  • However, I think the showcasing of the fact that the Pope and his first trip to come to um to to a foreign country before since the since the pandemic shows that you know that Iraq Iraq is not not not not not the kind of violent, violent, violent country that is always it's always perceived to be.

  • Yeah, And then what can we expect for the rest of the pope's visit rest of today in the next two days?

  • Well, he went to the city of, uh, immediately after that and which is quite symbolic as well, because that's well, the founding place of all the all the three major religions Abrahamic, Abraham Supposed birthplace of that.

  • He said to then hold mass within, uh, back in Baghdad.

  • Um, following that he is then going to come up to you to be aware of where I am not currently at the moment and then go into Mosul and visit some very historic sites there and then also head to the town of uh Caracas, where he will also visit a church that was significantly attacked by Isis.

  • Uh, when?

  • When they When they When they controlled the era and then finally culminates his trip being in Urbi or holding a map holding, holding, holding an event at the football stadium here.

  • Now this is obviously historic and and a very big first step.

  • But what can the pope realistically achieve as far as into faith dialogue goes in the country.

  • I mean, he's not going to be able to disarm all the major groups and major militias, and and he's certainly not going to be able to stop some of the violence that you know.

  • Some spices, obviously, is still operating in certain areas of this country and, you know, here and build the U.

  • S.

  • Base was recently attacked by some Shia militias, so obviously he's not gonna be able to end that.

  • But I think particularly the message that came out of the meeting with Sistani does show that you know that more than that on a cultural level on the communitarian level, maybe not on a political level that there is a unity between the different different sects and different different groups within this country.

  • And so it's a very powerful message that, I think is, is putting forward for the country.

  • And that was that itself will also have a strong political weight against the lead against the different political leaders who who may want to use you still may want to go down the sectarian route.

  • All right, journalist Owen, hold away speaking to us from Erbil in Iraq.

  • Thank you very much.

It's day two of Pope Francis's historic visit to Iraq.

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Pope Francis meets with Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani | DW News

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/07
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